Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2004
Publication Date: 5/12/2005
Citation: Akin, D.E., Dodd, R.B., Foulk, J.A. 2005. Pilot plant for processing flax fiber. Industrial Crops and Products. 21:369-378.
Interpretive Summary: In order to overcome barriers for establishing a flax fiber industry for the US, retting and processing methods must be developed and integrated. Recently, a commercial flax fiber processing line was set up and is beginning to operate. Researchers at USDA and Clemson University collaborated to design, set up and test a flax fiber pilot plant, using disverse samples of flax. Results showed that unretted, dew-retted, and enzyme-retted flax of diverse properties could be processed. Data are important in that this is the first and only pilot plant for cleaning flax fiber in the US and allows flexibility in the process. This study will support the emerging flax fiber industry in the US and further promote bio-based products and farm economies.
Technical Abstract: A pilot plant for processing flax straw into fibers was established and tested using a diverse set of samples. The USDA Flax Fiber Pilot Plant (Flax-PP), which is the only research facility of this type in the US, was designed according to the commercial 'Unified Line' (Czech Flax Machinery) but smaller and in four individual modules. The modules and order for processing were as follows: 9-roller calender, top shaker, scutching wheel, top shaker, 5-roller calender, and top shaker. Photographs and diagrammatic representation of the modules are shown. Unretted 'Neche' linseed flax, dew-retted 'Natasja', and enzyme-retted 'Jordan' fiber flax were processed, and the cumulative weight loss of material at successive processing steps was determined to judge the effectiveness of cleaning. Fiber strength, fineness, and elongation were determined for the retted samples after cleaning through all steps in the Flax-PP. A yield of fine fiber from the retted stems processed through the Flax-PP was acquired from further cleaning and refining by passage through a Shirley Analyzer. The various samples behaved differently at different stages of processing, and resulting fibers had different properties. The dew-retted Natasja fibers were stronger and finer than enzyme-retted Jordan flax after pilot plant processing, but Jordan fibers appeared cleaner and better retted. The Flax-PP effectively processed samples of diverse characteristics and will facilitate integrated research on retting methods for fibers with tailored properties.