Natural fiber

Natural fibers or natural fibres (see spelling differences) are fibers that are produced by plants, animals, and geological processes. They can be used as a component of composite materials, where the orientation of fibers impacts the properties. Natural fibers can also be matted into sheets to make paper or felt.
Natural fibers are good sweat absorbents and can be found in a variety of textures. Cotton fibers made from the cotton plant, for example, produce fabrics that are light in weight, soft in texture, and which can be made in various sizes and colors. Clothes made of natural fibers such as cotton are often preferred over clothing made of synthetic fibers by people living in hot and humid climates.
Chitin forms crystals that make fibrils that become surrounded by proteins. These fibrils can bundle to make larger fibers that contribute to the hierarchical structure of many biological materials. These fibrils can form randomly oriented networks that provide the mechanical strength of the organic layer in different biological materials.
In nature, pure chitin (100% acetylation) does not exist. It instead exists as a copolymer with chitin's deacetylated derivative, chitosan. When the acetylized composition of the copolymer is over 50% acetylated it is chitin. This copolymer of chitin and chitosan is a random or block copolymer.
Natural fibers are also used in composite materials, much like synthetic or glass fibers. These composites, called biocomposites, are a natural fiber in a matrix of synthetic polymers. One of the first biofiber-reinforced plastics in use was a cellulose fiber in phenolics in 1908. Usage includes applications where energy absorption is important, such as insulation, noise absorbing panels, or collapsable areas in automobiles.
Nanocomposites are desirable for their mechanical properties. When fillers in a composite are at the nanometer length scale, the surface to volume ratio of the filler material is high, which influences the bulk properties of the composite more compared to traditional composites. The properties of these nanosized elements is markedly different than that of its bulk constituent.
To use cellulose as an example, semicrystalline microfibrils are sheared in the amorphous region, resulting in microcrystalline cellulose (MCC). These small, crystalline cellulose fibrils are at this points reclassified as a whisker and can be 2 to 20 nm in diameter with shapes ranging from spherical to cylindrical. Whiskers of collagen, chitin, and cellulose have all be used to make biological nanocomposites. The matrix of these composites are commonly hydrophobic synthetic polymers such as polyethylene, and polyvinyl chloride and copolymers of polystyrene and polyacrylate.
Difficulties in natural fiber nanocomposites arise from dispersity and the tendency small fibers to aggregate in the matrix. Because of the high surface area to volume ratio the fibers have a tendency to aggregate, more so than in micro-scale composites. Additionally secondary processing of collagen sources to obtain sufficient purity collagen micro fibrils adds a degree of cost and challenge to creating a load bearing cellulose or other filler based nanocomposite.