Synthetic Fibres and Plastics

Introduction to Fibres

We all have a little shopping diva within us. We all love to shop. When someone says shopping; the very first picture that comes to our mind are that of clothes. So what are clothes? What’re they made of? What are the different types of fibres? Let us study more about this below.

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Definition of Fibres

Long strands of molecules interwoven to form a linear, string-like structure are known as ‘Fibres’. Fibers are natural or man-made such as cotton, silk, jute, etc.


Fibers were discovered when early people realized the need to cover and protect their own hair and skin from the weather. Since early people would live in cold climate they hunted animals with skins (fur and food) that kept them warm. When used continuously this skin becomes harder and made it hard for the early men to hunt and hence later they started to treat this skin to maintain its softness. In a much later time, they started using the bones of animals as needle and nerves as the thread to stitch. And now decades later we finally know how to grow our own fibres and make clothes or fabrics out of them.

Characteristics of Fibers

Fibers used in clothing are used to cover the body, to protect our body, etc. Everyone wears clothes for different reasons. Some of the other characteristics of fibres are:

  • Fibers can be repeatedly stretched more than 500% of its original size and can also recover back; immediately to its original size and shape once the tension is relaxed.
  • In comparison to rubber, it is stronger and more durable.
  • It is lightweight.

Natural Fibres

Fibres obtained from plants and animals that can be spun into filament, thread or rope are termed as ‘Natural fibres’. They may be woven, knitted, matted or bonded.

Decades later even though the methods used to make fabrics from fibres may have changed greatly, their functions remain the same:

  • Most natural fibres are still used to make clothing and containers.
  • To insulate, soften and decorate our spaces.


The journey of a cotton plant starts on a farm where a dry breeze blows across the endless stretch of fields as the woolly cotton seeds are planted in neat rows. When the crops are ready to harvest, the plants are first intensely watered up to 200 days. Cotton is almost pure cellulose. The length of cotton varies from 10 to 65 mm, and the diameter from 11 to 22 microns. Since cotton absorbs moisture easily, it is the most obvious choice as a fabric for clothes.


Wool is made from shearing a sheep, after which its quality is checked and is later prepared for spinning. This wool is spun into long strands. The strands are then woven into a  fabric. Since wool holds moisture without feeling
wet it is a great thermal insulator. The diameter of a wool ranges from 16 microns to more than 40 microns.

Solved Example For You

Q. Which one of the following fibres contains protein units in its molecules?

a. Cotton

b. Wool

c. Rayon

d. Nylon

Sol: b. Wool

Wool is one of the fibres which contains protein units in its molecules. It falls under the type of natural protein fibres, which are formed through condensation of α-amino acids, to form repeating polyamide units.

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