August 15, 2005, ARS News
Service: New international quality standards for flax fiber
have been established, thanks to Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists. Standards have been established for fineness, color
and cleanliness of the fiber.
The standards help assure uniform quality and performance, according
to microbiologist Danny E. Akin in the ARS Quality Assessment Research
Unit at Athens, Ga. Natural fibers such as flax/linen are variable,
so standards are particularly useful for manufacturers of textiles
and composites. Without standards, manufacturers lack the knowledge
of how to set equipment for optimal production.
Flax fiber went out of vogue in the United States with the introduction
of the cotton gin, which vaulted cotton into popularity.
In the United States, flax is now grown for seed--linseed, for example--mostly
in North Dakota. A market for flax fiber has been difficult to establish,
partly because there have been no standards in place to govern its
quality. That is being changed.
Akin chairs the ASTM International Subcommittee "Flax and
Linen," which is responsible for establishing standards for
flax fibers. Four standards have been developed to date, including
terminology, color measurement, fineness and cleanliness. ASTM,
originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials,
was formed more than a century ago and is one of the largest voluntary
standards-development organizations in the world.
These standards set the stage for an expansion of manufacturing
use of flax products into lighter, more environmentally friendly
composites that can be used to replace glass in cars. Some major
car manufacturers have expressed interest in such a product. Flax
products could also find use in the medical arena as bandages, and
short flax fibers can be blended with cotton or other fibers for
Read more about the research in the August 2005 issue of Agricultural
Research magazine, available online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/aug05/fiber0805.htm