The evaluation of conventional retting versus solar baking of Agave americana fibres in terms of textile properties
Mafaesa, 'Manonyane Albertina 'Mamthimk'ulo
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The overall goal of the study was to evaluate solar baking against conventional retting as decortication methods of Agave americana fibre in terms of textile properties. The study focused mainly on: • Identification of the most cost-effective, efficient and eco-friendly methods of partial degradation of Agave americana leaves to release the textile fibre. • Evaluating the physical structure of Agave americana fibre decorticated by solar baking and conventional retting. • Evaluating the essential textile properties and some secondary textile properties of Agave americana fibre fabric to predict its possible end uses in textiles. Preliminary comparison of ten different leaf partial degradation methods, suggested the feasibility of investigation of solar baking as a partial degradative method for fibre extraction. Conventional retting was chosen to be the control method. The solar baking process was found successful, energy saving, more eco-friendly and faster than conventional retting of the Agave americana leaves. Fibre decortication was entirely done by hand after the leaves were partially degraded. After hand decortication the fibres were then knotted, twined and woven into fabric. Long beautiful fibre with natural look was obtained from Agave americana leaves. Agave americana fibre in its natural condition is coarse, harsh and stiff when dry. Fibre identification tests confirmed that Agave americana react like all other natural cellulosic fibres in burning behaviour, solubility and Shirlastain C identification tests. Microscopic evaluation indicated that the fibre consisted of a number of irregularly sized and shaped individual cells, each with a lumen. The Shirlastain C colour reaction and the crosssectional view of the Agave americana fibre are unique and would be useful to distinguish Agave americana from other natural cellulosic fibres. The physical structure and the length of Agave americana fibre were evaluated while the fibre was in a fibre form. The retted and solar baked Agave americana fibre yarn was evaluated for tensile strength and elongation at break. The thickness, stiffness, dimensional stability, crease recovery, dye ability, moisture regain and water absorption of the Agave americana fabric of the solar baked and retted fibres were evaluated. Agave americana fibre showed adequate tensile strength and elongation at break to be a useful textile fibre. No significant differences were found between the tensile strength of the retted and the solar baked fibre. Agave americana exhibited excellent dimensional stability; it showed relaxation shrinkage with no residual shrinkage. Agave americana showed good water absorption and moisture regain properties. Agave americana accepted the direct dye easily even without bleaching. The Agave americana fibre fabric was found to be relatively stiff. Agave americana exhibited poor crease recovery no significant difference in crease recovery were found between retted and solar baked fibre fabrics, but the warp yarns recovered significantly better from creases than the weft yarns. Agave americana fibre is a promising speciality cellulosic fibre which has a potential of being valuable for current as well as future applications. The research proved that solar baking is an efficient, fast and environment friendly alternative to conventional retting as a partial degradation method for Agave americana fibre decortication.