The yarns with 70:30 Cotton: PNF (actual in yarn stage) was successfully spun and yarns were sized and woven into fabrics using the loom and the fabrics have unique look and are useful to produce Jackets, home textiles, and apparel.

There are various types of fibers available as textile fibers. These are either natural or manmade (synthetic). Recent trends show that the use of natural fibers is increasing all across the world as compared to synthetic fibers because natural fibers are eco-friendly, skin-friendly and most importantly they are biodegradable. The Indian Himalayan region has enormous natural fiber wealth, including pine needles. These fibers are being used by the local people in a very casual way to fulfill their bare minimum needs.

Due to insufficient possibilities of employment in the hills, poverty prevails in the hills. Further, the most negative and damaging impact is that pine needles (called perul in local language), fall down every year in abundance which catches fire and becomes highly combustible after getting dried. This leads to a forest fire causing huge losses to the people living in the region.

Thus, it can be concluded that there is a strong need to open the path for the generation of employment at the hills. Textile is the second largest employment giving industry in India and so it is better to exploit the use of natural fibers of the region to bring happiness to the hill people by upbringing their livelihood & earnings and reducing chances of forest fires. It has been observed that the products developed from these fibers have very high domestic and export demand.

Production of Pine Needles Fibres

The process for fiber extraction from Pine Needles (Perul) involves low temperature and low alkali fiber extraction followed by silica removal together with provisions for softening of fibers. A plant fiber forms a fiber extracted from the stem, leaf, or the plant and can be also produced by the plant as protecting seed hairs. In the existing extraction process, pine fiber is extracted from the leaf of the pine tree that is also called a pine needle or Perul. Fiber extraction is carried out by cooking the needles. Cooking constitutes a process in which pine leaves are treated with certain chemicals at boiling temperature. Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Tamara Orjola’s Forest Wool stools and carpets are made from processed pine needles left over from the timber industry.

By crushing, soaking, steaming, bending, and pressing the needles, Orjola extracts the pine needles’ fiber and transforms it into textiles, composites, and paper. The process also allows essential oils and dye to be extracted and used.

Further, the extraction processes are accompanied by manual/machine decortications of boiled pine needles. The chemicals that are used in extraction are generally alkali or salt, which are used at boiling or elevated temperature. In order to impart a clean look, the process is generally accompanied by bleaching. The bleaching can be done by any of the available methods like hypochlorite bleaching or peroxide bleaching etc. However, the fibers produced are short and coarse. The extraction of pine fiber by treatment with alkali followed by soaking in water, wherein material must be treated at 212 Fahrenheit. Variable size fibers can be obtained.

According to this process, the needles or pine-straw not only have the effect of dissecting the fiber vascular bundles but the contour of the fibrils is also altered. By the constant circulation of the alkaline solution and subsequent washings with water, the pores or cells are thoroughly permeated, a great deal of foreign matter is driven out, and the place of the old natural constituents is taken by the new chemical compounds. By the decorticating process, a great deal of organic matter is rubbed out and the teeth of the cards are enabled to readily take hold of the mass to finally remove all foreign and objectionable matter and to affect the shredding of the leaves, which may be done to a greater or less degree to produce a fiber of fine or coarser grade, as desired. The pine needles are treated with warm or hot alkali. After alkali treatment needles are passed between pressure rolls. Pressure applications are followed by washing, wherein pressures are applied to loosen the silica. Silica removal is necessary as it is the constituent in the fiber that is mainly responsible for brittleness.

Also in the currently available technologies, there are no provisions to achieve softness and for textile processes, flexibility is required because stiffness leads to breakages during fiber processing in the different textile processes.

The pine fibers are conditioned at 27 + 2 C and 65% + 5 Relative Humidity.

The treatment of conditioned pine fibers was carried out with alkali for 30 minutes to 10 hours, the concentration of which varies from 0.5 to 5%.

 The treatment with metallic salt is conducted for 30 minutes to 10 hours having a concentration of 0.5 to 5 The treated pine fibers undergo decortication followed by washing.

 The washing is done by means of soft water.

The bleaching is conducted by Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) having a concentration of 1-2 grams per liter together with 0.5-2 grams per liter NaOH and 0.25-1 grams per liter peroxide stabilizer.

 The drying is carried out for example at 1200C for about 20 minutes to extract the fiber.

The process for fiber extraction from pine needles comprises steps of sorting of pine needles, pine fibers conditioning, dual chemical treatment, decortication, washing, bleaching, drying of fibers followed by softening and fiber extraction the metallic salt has silica removal action, which decreases harshness. This leads to softening of fibers. Thus, loosening of lignin and silica removal is carried out by the aforesaid chemical processes. The finally treated pine fibers undergo decortication manually or by a machine. The decorticated fibers are then washed by means of distilled water.

 The washing is followed by bleaching and drying. The bleaching is conducted by Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) having a concentration of 1-2 grams per liter together with 0.5-2 grams per liter NaOH and 0.25-1 grams per liter peroxide stabilizer for nearly 15 minutes. The bleached pine fibers thus obtained are dried in a drying chamber for example at 1200C for about 20 minutes to extract the fiber.

The devised process of invention results in the production of soft fibers facilitating the process. Softening is achieved by means of oil in the water emulsion method.

 The temperature is near to room temperature and said alkali is in the range of 0-8%.

The silica removal is accomplished at a low concentration of chemicals for complete removal thereof.

Properties Of Pine Needle Fibres (Make the Table below, see original)

Physical Properties of Pine needle fibers

PARAMETERSPINE NEEDLES
Tenacity (g/den)1.10
Min.0.32
Max.3.63
Average1.10
CV%66.80
Elongation%5.94
Min.0.80
Max.10.10
Average5.94
CV%41.25
Count (Denier/Ne)87.69/60.61
Bundle strength (g/tex)5.64
Elongation%6.9
Moisture Regain11%
Fibre Length  Range:-3-8 cm
Anti-Microbial Propertyyes
Average fiber Fineness88.56 micron
Crystallinity61.76%

Uses of pine needles fibers

The pine needle fibers (PNF) have been blended with cotton in different ratios and it was found difficult to spin yarn as the percentage of PNF fibers increases. Also, it is observed that there is a preferential loss of PNF in carding, resulting in less PNF percentage in resultant yarn. The yarns with 70:30 Cotton: PNF (actual in yarn stage) was successfully spun and yarns were sized and woven into fabrics using a loom. The fabrics have unique look and are useful to produce Jackets, home textiles, and apparel.

Author: Dr. N.N.Mahapatra

Business Head (Dyes)

Shree Pushkar Chemicals & Fertilisers Ltd.