Submitted to: International Conference on Flax and Other Bast Plants
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/28/2008
Publication Date: 7/20/2008
Citation: Foulk, J.A., Akin, D.E., Dodd, R. 2008. Spinning enzymatically retted flax fibers. Fiber foundations - transportation, clothing and shelter in the bioeconomy. International Conference on Flax and Other Bast Plants, July 21-23, 2008, Saskatoon, Sasketchewan, Canada. p. 190-200.
Interpretive Summary: Flax fibers are stiff and strong and can be blended with other short staple fibers, processed into a yarn, and then manufactured into a fabric. Manufacturing yarns with natural flax fibers has traditionally been constructed using dew- or water-retted fibers. Enzyme-retting is a new, experimental method that decomposes the pectins and other substances to separate cellulose fibers from the woody portion of the stalk using pectinase-rich enzymes and chelators. The Agricultural Research Service of USDA has a priority to develop and expand use of sustainable, environmentally friendly biobased products, such as natural fibers, for a variety of industrial applications. Flax fiber offers many possibilities towards this goal, but the US currently does not have a flax fiber industry. Further understandings of desired enzyme-retted flax fiber characteristics and their relationship to manufactured yarns could lead to improved flax fiber marketing.
Technical Abstract: Fibers from flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) are stiff and strong and can be blended with other short staple fibers, such as cotton (Gossypium barbadense L. or Gossypium hirsutum L.), processed into a yarn and then manufactured into a fabric. Manufacturing yarns with natural flax fibers has traditionally been constructed using dew- or water-retted fibers. Enzyme-retting is a new, experimental method that decomposes the pectinaceous and matrix substances to separate cellulose fibers from shives using pectinase-rich enzymes and chelators. Modifications of the natural hydrophilic fibers cause changes in the fiber and yarn strength depending upon the enzyme treatment. Spinning tests were used to determine how well fibers were assembled to form yarn and provided an indirect measurement of fiber properties. Fibers were evaluated for physical properties while yarns created with flax and cotton fibers were tested for strength and evenness. Properties of yarns vary considerably but these properties and spinning efficiency remain the top indicators to determine the best enzyme formulation for yarn production. The purpose of this study was to evaluate miniature spinning using 50/50 blends of cotton and enzyme-retted flax since enzyme modifications and chelators impact the fiber and yarn formation. Fibers directly impact yarn because fiber surface properties are dependent upon retting formulations, fiber length can be affected by aggressive enzymes, fiber fineness is dependent upon the removal of matrix substances, and fibers contain trash due to non-uniform enzyme-retting. Fiber properties can be tailored to optimize their use in yarn formation. Miniature spinning allows expanded predictive strategies for ranking fiber production methods, such as enzyme-retting, and resultant yarns beyond traditional fiber testing.