Structure And Properties Of Cotton Fiber



The botanical name of American Upland cotton is Gossypium Hirsutum and has been developed from cottons of Central America. Upland varieties represent approximately 97% of U.S. production.


Each cotton fiber is composed of concentric layers. The cuticle layer on the fiber itself is separable from the fiber and consists of wax and pectin materials. The primary wall, the most peripheral layer of the fiber, is composed of cellulosic crystalline fibrils. [9] The secondary wall of the fiber consists of three distinct layers. All three layers of the secondary wall include closely packed parallel fibrils with spiral winding of 25-35o and represent the majority of cellulose within the fiber. The innermost part of cotton fiber- the lumen- is composed of the remains of the cell contents. Before boll opening, the lumen is filled with liquid containing the cell nucleus and protoplasm. The twists and convolutions of the dried fiber are due to the removal of this liquid. The cross section of the fiber is bean-shaped, swelling almost round when moisture absorption takes place.

The overall contents are broken down into the following components.

1.2 Raw cotton components:



6-8% Water
0.5 – 1% Waxes and fats
0 – 1.5% Proteins
4 – 6% Hemicelluloses and pectin’s
1 – 1.8% Ash


During scouring (treatment of the fiber with caustic soda), natural waxes and fats in the fiber are saponified and pectin’s and other non-cellulose materials are released, so that the impurities can be removed by just rinsing away. After scouring, a bleaching solution (consisting of a stabilized oxidizing agent) interacts with the fiber and the natural color is removed. Bleaching takes place at elevated temperature for a fixed period of time [1]. Mercerization is another process of improving sorption properties of cotton. Cotton fiber is immersed into 18- 25% solution of sodium hydroxide often under tension [9]. The fiber obtains better luster and sorption during mercerization.

After scouring and bleaching, the fiber is 99% cellulose. Cellulose is a polymer consisting of anhydroglucose units connected with 1,4 oxygen bridges in the beta position. The hydroxyl groups on the cellulose units enable hydrogen bonding between two adjacent polymer chains. The degree of polymerization of cotton is 9,000-15,000 [1]. Cellulose shows approximately 66% crystallinity, which can be determined by X-ray diffraction, infrared spectroscopy and density methods.

Each crystal unit consists of five chains of anhydroglucose units, parallel to the fibril axis. One chain is located at each of the corners of the cell and one runs through the center of the cell. The dimensions of the cell are a = 0.835nm, b = 1.03 nm and c = 0.79 nm. The angle between ab and BC planes is 84º for normal cellulose, i.e., Cellulose I

1.3 Repeat unit of cellulose

The current consensus regarding cellulose crystallinity (X-ray diffraction) is that fibers are essentially 100% crystalline and that very small crystalline units imperfectly packed together cause the observed disorder.

The density method used to determine cellulose crystallinity is based on the density gradient column, where two solvents of different densities are partially mixed. Degree of Crystallinity is, then, determined from the density of the sample, while densities of crystalline and amorphous cellulose forms are known (1.505 and 1.556 respectively). Orientation of untreated cotton fiber is poor because the crystallites are contained in the micro fibrils of the secondary wall, oriented in the steep spiral (25-30o) to the fiber axis.


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