Flax Fiber Has New International Standards
Durham August 15, 2005
New international quality standards for flax fiber have been
established, thanks to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. Standards have been
established for fineness, color and cleanliness of the fiber.
The standards help assure uniform quality and performance, according
Akin in the ARS
Assessment Research Unit at Athens, Ga. Natural fibers such as flax/linen
are variable, so standards are particularly useful for manufacturers of
textiles and composites. Without standards, manufacturers lack the knowledge of
how to set equipment for optimal production.
Flax fiber went out of vogue in the United States with the
introduction of the cotton gin, which vaulted cotton into popularity.
In the United States, flax is now grown for seed--linseed, for
example--mostly in North Dakota. A market for flax fiber has been difficult to
establish, partly because there have been no standards in place to govern its
quality. That is being changed.
Akin chairs the ASTM
International Subcommittee "Flax and Linen," which is responsible for
establishing standards for flax fibers. Four standards have been developed to
date, including terminology, color measurement, fineness and cleanliness. ASTM,
originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, was formed
more than a century ago and is one of the largest voluntary
standards-development organizations in the world.
These standards set the stage for an expansion of manufacturing use of
flax products into lighter, more environmentally friendly composites that can
be used to replace glass in cars. Some major car manufacturers have expressed
interest in such a product. Flax products could also find use in the medical
arena as bandages, and short flax fibers can be blended with cotton or other
fibers for specialty products.
about the research in the August 2005 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief in-house scientific research agency.