A number of fibers exist that are derived from natural mineral sources or are manufactured from inorganic and mineral salts. These fibers are predominantly derivatives of silica (Si02) or other metal oxides. In addition, metal fibers (either alone or encapsulated in a suitable organic polymer) are produced. The common feature of these fibers is their inorganic or metallic composition and tendency to be heat resistant and nonflammable, with the exception of polymer- coated metallic fibers.
Fibers spun from glass are completely inorganic in nature and possess unique properties that cannot be found in organic textile fibers. Glass fibers have some deficiencies in properties that severely limit their use in apparel. Glass fibers are used in a number of industrial and aerospace applications and in selected home furnishing uses where heat and environmental stability are of prime importance.
Glass fibers are manufactured for industrial and consumer use under a number of names including fiberglass, Beta glass, J-M fiberglass, PPG fiberglass, and Vitron. Glass fibers are strong, but they exhibit poor abrasion resistance, which limits their use in textile structures for consumer goods. Heat setting of glass fabrics imparts good wrinkle resistance to fabrics made from these fibers.
They are used extensively in curtains and draperies, electrical and thermal insulation, tire cord, reinforced plastics, industrial filters, and protective clothing and accessories. Apparel applications are limited to very fine Beta glass fibers.
A series of man-made inorganic fibers other than glass exist that are nonflammable, heat stable amorphous materials useful in industrial fabric constructions, including refractory materials. These inorganic fibers include pure silica, potassium titanates, aluminum borosilicates, and aluminum oxide-zirconium oxide polymers, Most of these fibers have high strength, are less susceptible to chemical attack than glass, and melt above 1000°(, They may be used in higher- temperature applications than possible with most glass fibers.
Asbestos is the name given to several natural minerals (anthophyllite, amphibole, serpentine) which occur in a fibrous crystalline form. The asbestos is initially crushed to open up the fiber mass, followed by carding and spinning to yield fibers of circular cross-section 1-30 cm in length. Asbestos is very resistant to heat and burning, to acids and alkalies, and to other chemicals. Although it has low strength, asbestos fiber does not deteriorate in normal usage, and it is not attacked by insects or microorganisms. Asbestos is used in fireproof clothing, conveyor belts, brake linings, gaskets, industrial packings, electrical windings, insulations, and soundproofing materials. Inhaled asbestos fibers have been shown to be a serious health hazard, and it has been removed from the textiles market.
Metallic fibers are defined as fibers composed of metal, plastic coated metal, or metal-coated plastic. Single-component metallic fibers for textile usage are finely drawn filaments of metal which can be spun and woven on normal textile machinery. These metallic fibers possess the properties of the metal from which they are formed.