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Report | April 2014

Macro potential in microfibres

Microfibres can give birth to a completely new generation of ultra-fine synthetic yarns, which are bound to have abrighter future in the Indian market due to the aesthetic properties of the fabrics made out of these yarns, assert Pooja Bhatt and Dr Alka Goel.

In order to be called a "microfibre," the fibre must be less than one denier. Fine silk, for example, is approximately 1.25 denier. A microfibre would need to be 0.9 denier or finer. Many microfibres are 0.5 to 0.6 denier. For another comparison, very fine nylon stockings are knit from 10-15 denier yarns consisting of 3-4 filaments. A 15 denier yarn made of microfibre would have as many as 30 filaments. The many fine fibres packed together create a depth and a body to fabrics from which they are made.

Fabrics have luxurious drape. Although fine and lightweight, they do not exhibit a flimsy quality. The many tiny filaments or fibres can slide back and forth and manoeuvre around within the yarns in a fabric allowing the fabric to flow and drape freely, yet still possess body. Consider a very thick rope. If you bend it, it will be stiff and form a rounded arc. If you take many finer threads or yarns together until they form the same diameter as the thick rope and bend them, they will form a sharper bend or curve. Each of the individual strands can move independently to create more flexibility or pliability. This effect occurs with microfibres. Each of the many very fine fibres moves independently to create lovely drape, yet the fine fibres can be packed together tightly for body in a fabric.

Microfibres are not necessarily new, but they are being used in different ways today. The first fabric made from microfibre was UltrasuedeGäó in which short polyester microfibres were embedded into a urethane base. Today, microfibres are being used in both long continuous lengths as well as short or staple lengths.

Properties of microfibre fabrics

Microfibre fabrics are generally lightweight, resilient or resist wrinkling, have a luxurious drape and body, retain shape, and resist pilling. Also, they are relatively strong and durable in relation to other fabrics of similar weight. Because microfibres are so fine, many fibres can be packed together very tightly. The denseness results in other desirable properties. With many more fine fibres required to form a yarn, greater fibre surface area results making deeper, richer and brighter colours possible.

Also, since fine yarns can be packed tightly together, microfibres work well in garments requiring wind resistance and water repellents. Yet, the spaces between the yarns are porous enough to breathe and wick body moisture away from the body. When comparing two similar fabrics, one made from a conventional fibre and one from a microfibre, generally the microfibre fabric will be more breathable and more comfortable to wear. Microfibres seem to be less "clammy" in warm weather than conventional synthetics.

One caution related to synthetic microfibres is heat sensitivity. Because the fibre strands are so fine, heat penetrates more quickly than with thicker conventional fibres. As a result, microfibres are more heat sensitive and will scorch or glaze if too much heat is applied or if it is applied for too long a period. Generally, microfibres are wrinkle resistant, but if pressing is needed at home or by dry cleaners, care should be taken to use lower temperatures.

Fibre availability

Man-made fibres are formed by forcing a liquid through tiny holes in a device called a spinneret. With microfibres, the holes are finer than with conventional fibres. Potentially, any man-made fibre could be made into a microfibre. Microfibres are most commonly found in polyester and nylon. Some rayon and acrylic micros are in production and available t

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