Special Issue "Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials"

A special issue of Polymers (ISSN 2073-4360). This special issue belongs to the section "Biomacromolecules, Biobased and Biodegradable Polymers".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2022) | Viewed by 11570

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Raul Fangueiro
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Guest Editor
1. Fibrenamics, Institute of Innovation on Fiber-based Materials and Composites, University of Minho, 4710-057 Guimarães, Portugal
2. Centre for Textile Science and Technology (2C2T), University of Minho, 4710-057 Guimarães, Portugal
Interests: fibrous and composite materials; nanofibers; advanced textiles; smart composites
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Jörg Müssig
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Guest Editor
Hochschule Bremen, The Biological Materials Group, Bremen, Germany
Interests: fiber composites
Dr. Diana Ferreira
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Centre for Textile Science and Technology (2C2T), University of Minho, 4710-057 Guimarães, Portugal
Interests: CBRN protective materials; nanofibers; natural fibers; functionalization of fibrous structures; synthesis of nanoparticles; piezoresistive materials; localized drug delivery systems; wound dressing systems; photodynamic therapy
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Natural fibers are a renewable resource, par excellence, having been renewed by nature and by humans for millennia. Recently, they have drawn tremendous attention from both the scientific community and industrial sectors due to their abundance and low cost, good specific mechanical properties, and environmental benefits. Tremendous growth in the use of non-renewable and non-biodegradable synthetic materials and associated emission of greenhouse gases is presently a big concern for the environment and future generations. In this context, the use of natural fibers, extracted from plants which absorb carbon dioxide and benefit the environment, seems to be highly attractive. In addition, processing of natural fibers generates wastes, which are mostly organic and can be used to generate electricity or green building, and at the end of its life cycle, they are 100% biodegradable.

Due to the increasing environmental concern and depletion of non-renewable resources, natural fibers are greatly enlarging their range of applications in different industrial sectors, including automobiles, sports, architecture, design, and many others. Consequently, extensive technological and scientific research and developments are being undertaken by various institutes around the world, turning these amazing materials into eco-friendly value-added products and stepping toward a greener world.

In this context, the accepted contributions for this Special Issue include topics such as:

  • New processes for natural fiber agriculture extraction and processing;
  • Natural fiber reinforced biopolymers;
  • Innovative natural fibers and structures;
  • Functional natural fibers;
  • Natural fiber modification techniques;
  • Advanced fibrous structures based on natural fibers;
  • Nanodimensional natural fibers;
  • Natural-fiber-based polymeric composites;
  • Green composites;
  • Natural-fiber-based cementitious composites;
  • Applications of natural fibers in high-end sectors;
  • Biomimetics;
  • Product development based on natural fibers;
  • New markets for natural fibers;
  • Sustainability of natural fibers: life cycle assessment studies;
  • Textile processing of natural fibers;
  • Properties and characterization of natural fibers and structures.

Prof. Dr. Raul Fangueiro
Prof. Dr. Jörg Müssig
Dr. Diana Ferreira
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Polymers is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • natural fibers
  • ecocomposites
  • fibers functionalization
  • nanocellulose
  • nanofibers

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Article
Evaluation of the Optimal Uses of Five Genotypes of Musa textilis Fiber Grown in the Tropical Region
Polymers 2022, 14(9), 1772; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym14091772 - 27 Apr 2022
Viewed by 426
Abstract
Knowing the genotypes of Musa textilis and its fiber production properties is key for developing cultivars with homogeneous properties and focusing on specific products or market segments that generate added value to the fiber. For this reason, the objective was to determine the [...] Read more.
Knowing the genotypes of Musa textilis and its fiber production properties is key for developing cultivars with homogeneous properties and focusing on specific products or market segments that generate added value to the fiber. For this reason, the objective was to determine the optimal use of five genotypes of M. textilis (MT01, MT03, MT07, MT11, and CF01) with high productivity grown in the tropical region of Costa Rica. Therefore, anatomical, physical-mechanical, chemical, and energetic analyses were carried out on these fibers to define whether any genotype has the ideal conditions for a specific use. The results showed differences between the genotypes, obtaining significant differences in physical-mechanical properties (tension, water retention, and color), chemical properties (holocellulose, lignin, extractives, and elemental values of nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur), and energetic properties (volatiles, ash, and caloric value thermogravimetric analyses), which resulted in the establishment of two groups of genotypes with a dissimilarity degree of 35%. The first group, composed of MT03 and MT01, presented characteristics suitable for paper production, biodegradable materials, and composite materials. On the other hand, the second group, made up of MT07, MT11, and CF01, showed properties suitable for textiles, heavy-duty fibers, and bioenergy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Application of Carbon–Flax Hybrid Composite in High Performance Electric Personal Watercraft
Polymers 2022, 14(9), 1765; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym14091765 - 26 Apr 2022
Viewed by 495
Abstract
Within the herein presented research, we studied the applicability of flax fabrics for composite parts in personal watercrafts in order to enhance damping of vibrations from the engine and noise reduction (which is relatively high for contemporary carbon constructions). Since the composite parts [...] Read more.
Within the herein presented research, we studied the applicability of flax fabrics for composite parts in personal watercrafts in order to enhance damping of vibrations from the engine and noise reduction (which is relatively high for contemporary carbon constructions). Since the composite parts are intended to be exposed to humid environments requiring high levels of mechanical properties, a carbon–flax composite was selected. Samples of carbon, fiberglass, flax, and hybrid carbon–flax twill and biax fabrics were subjected to tensile and three-point bending tests. The mechanical properties were also tested after exposure of the samples to a humid environment. Damping was assessed by vibration and noise measurements directly on the complete float for samples as well as real parts. The hybrid carbon–flax material exhibited lower values of tensile strength than the carbon material (760 MPa compared to 463 MPa), but, at the same time, significantly higher than the other tested materials, or flax itself (115 MPa for a twill fabric). A similar trend in the results was observed for the three-point bending tests. Vibration tests and noise measurements showed reductions in vibration amplitude and frequency when using the carbon–flax hybrid material; the frequency response function for the watercraft part assembled from the hybrid material was 50% lower than for that made of carbon. Testing of samples located in a humid environment showed the necessity of surface treatment to prevent moisture absorption (mechanical properties were reduced at minimum by 28%). The tests confirmed that the hybrid material is satisfactory in terms of strength and its contribution to noise and vibration damping. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Enhanced Knittability of Paper Yarn from the Swedish Forest by Using Textile Finishing Materials
Polymers 2021, 13(21), 3628; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13213628 - 21 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 730
Abstract
Friction between Swedish paper yarn and needles is a limiting factor that—together with the low yarn flexibility—is hindering the knitting and use of paper yarn as a sustainable textile material. To enhance the knittability, paper yarn was coated with textile finishing materials. The [...] Read more.
Friction between Swedish paper yarn and needles is a limiting factor that—together with the low yarn flexibility—is hindering the knitting and use of paper yarn as a sustainable textile material. To enhance the knittability, paper yarn was coated with textile finishing materials. The effect of six different textile finishing materials used for textiles processing (three different silicone-based, wax, glycerol, and soap) was evaluated. The treatment evaluation was done by determination of the friction coefficient, tensile testing, and knitting. The friction coefficient was determined by an adaption from the ASTM D3108-07 Standard Test Method for Coefficient of Friction, Yarn to Solid Material. The adaption meant using a specially designed rig, making it possible to simulate the yarn/needle friction during the knitting process and use a tensile testing machine to determine the friction coefficient. Through using the same angle for yarn movement during the knitting process in this adaptation, the effect of the flexibility of paper on the friction coefficient is integrated. Tensile testing was performed using a Tensolab 2512A/2512C electromechanical tensile tester, and knitting tests were performed using a Stoll CMS 822 HP knit and wear flat knitting machine with the E5.2 gauge. The results show that knittability is better for the yarns with lower coefficients of friction and can also be enhanced by spraying with regular water. The tensile properties of the yarn is degraded by the treatments. The wax- and soap-treated yarns were most challenging to knit. The silicone-based and glycerol-treated yarns showed enhanced knittability, where the glycerol treatment results in more protruding fibers compared to the other treatments. All treatments reduced the roughness in the feel of the knit. The results indicate that the Swedish paper yarn can be a future sustainable complement to polyester and cotton. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Mechanical and Hygroscopic Properties of Molded Pulp Products Using Different Wood-Based Cellulose Fibers
Polymers 2021, 13(19), 3225; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13193225 - 23 Sep 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 874
Abstract
With an increasing interest for molded pulp product (MPP) in the industry, it is important to fully understand how the manufacturing process is different from papermaking. One specific way to differentiate the processes is to compare their resulting products. As the paper industry [...] Read more.
With an increasing interest for molded pulp product (MPP) in the industry, it is important to fully understand how the manufacturing process is different from papermaking. One specific way to differentiate the processes is to compare their resulting products. As the paper industry uses several wood fibers with various pulping processes, it is interesting to compare some of these fibers, to further progress our understanding of the MPP process. In this study, six different wood fibers were used (as received) and analyzed to obtain the sample with the lowest moisture uptake and highest tensile properties. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and fiber analysis module (MorFi) observations were performed, as well as moisture uptake measurements after sorption and tensile tests. We observed significant differences between the fibers tested. Kraft fibers (bleached softwood kraft pulp (BSKP), bleached hardwood kraft pulp (BHKP), and unbleached softwood kraft pulp (USKP)) showed smoother surfaces and less non-cellulosic molecules, such as hemicellulose, lignin, and pectin, in the SEM images. Bleached chemi-thermomechanial pulp (BCTMP) and recycled pulps (R-NPM and R-CBB) both showed non-cellulosic molecules and rougher surfaces. These results were confirmed with the FTIR analysis. With kraft fibers, MPP mechanical properties were lower than non-kraft fibers. Resulting moisture uptake is in between the recycled fibers (lowest moisture uptake) and BCTMP (highest moisture uptake). The removal of non-cellulosic molecules reduces the mechanical properties of the resulting MPP. The incorporation of non-wood molecules, as found in recycled fibers, also reduces the mechanical properties, as well as moisture uptake, when compared with BCTMP. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Development and Characterization of a 3D Printed Cocoa Bean Shell Filled Recycled Polypropylene for Sustainable Composites
Polymers 2021, 13(18), 3162; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13183162 - 18 Sep 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1229
Abstract
Natural filler-based composites are an environmentally friendly and potentially sustainable alternative to synthetic or plastic counterparts. Recycling polymers and using agro-industrial wastes are measures that help to achieve a circular economy. Thus, this work presents the development and characterization of a 3D printing [...] Read more.
Natural filler-based composites are an environmentally friendly and potentially sustainable alternative to synthetic or plastic counterparts. Recycling polymers and using agro-industrial wastes are measures that help to achieve a circular economy. Thus, this work presents the development and characterization of a 3D printing filament based on recycled polypropylene and cocoa bean shells, which has not been explored yet. The obtained composites were thermally and physically characterized. In addition, the warping effect, mechanical, and morphological analyses were performed on 3D printed specimens. Thermal analysis exhibited decreased thermal stability when cacao bean shell (CBS) particles were added due to their lignocellulosic content. A reduction in both melting enthalpy and crystallinity percentage was identified. This is caused by the increase in the amorphous structures present in the hemicellulose and lignin of the CBS. Mechanical tests showed high dependence of the mechanical properties on the 3D printing raster angle. Tensile strength increased when a raster angle of 0° was used, compared to specimens printed at 90°, due to the load direction. Tensile strength and fracture strain were improved with CBS addition in specimens printed at 90°, and better bonding between adjacent layers was achieved. Electron microscope images identified particle fracture, filler-matrix debonding, and matrix breakage as the central failure mechanisms. These failure mechanisms are attributed to the poor interfacial bonding between the CBS particles and the matrix, which reduced the tensile properties of specimens printed at 0°. On the other hand, the printing process showed that cocoa bean shell particles reduced by 67% the characteristic warping effect of recycled polypropylene during 3D printing, which is advantageous for 3D printing applications of the rPP. Thereby, potential sustainable natural filler composite filaments for 3D printing applications with low density and low cost can be developed, adding value to agro-industrial and plastic wastes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
The Adaptive Power of Ammophila arenaria: Biomimetic Study, Systematic Observation, Parametric Design and Experimental Tests with Bimetal
Polymers 2021, 13(15), 2554; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13152554 - 31 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 870
Abstract
The aim of our study was to apply a biomimetic approach, inspired by the Ammophila arenaria. This organism possesses a reversible leaf opening and closing mechanism that responds to water and salt stress (hydronastic movement). We adopted a problem-based biomimetic methodology in [...] Read more.
The aim of our study was to apply a biomimetic approach, inspired by the Ammophila arenaria. This organism possesses a reversible leaf opening and closing mechanism that responds to water and salt stress (hydronastic movement). We adopted a problem-based biomimetic methodology in three stages: (i) two observation studies; (ii) how to abstract and develop a parametric model to simulate the leaf movement; and (iii) experiments with bimetal, a smart material that curls up when heated. We added creases to the bimetal active layer in analogy to the position of bulliform cells. These cells determine the leaf-closing pattern. The experiments demonstrated that creases influence and can change the direction of the bimetal natural movement. Thus, it is possible to replicate the Ammophila arenaria leaf-rolling mechanism in response to temperature variation and solar radiation in the bimetal. In future works, we will be able to propose responsive facade solutions based on these results. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Valorization of Invasive Plants from Macaronesia as Filler Materials in the Production of Natural Fiber Composites by Rotational Molding
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2220; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13132220 - 05 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1167
Abstract
This paper compares the mechanical properties of different natural fiber composites produced by rotational molding as a way of waste valorization from campaigns to control invasive plant species in Macaronesia. Rotomolded parts produced with polymeric matrices (polyethylene) and filled with up to 20% [...] Read more.
This paper compares the mechanical properties of different natural fiber composites produced by rotational molding as a way of waste valorization from campaigns to control invasive plant species in Macaronesia. Rotomolded parts produced with polymeric matrices (polyethylene) and filled with up to 20% by weight of cellulosic fibers obtained from Arundo donax L., Pennisetum setaceum, and Ricinus communis plants were characterized in terms of tensile, flexural, and impact strength. It was found that the sieving of natural fibers allowed for their introduction in higher loadings, from 10 (for un-sieved material) to 20%; fiber size greatly affected the mechanical properties of the final parts, although some combinations were proven not to reduce the mechanical properties of the neat resin. This study is a first approach to the valorization of residues obtained from periodic campaigns of the control of invasive species performed by public authorities, usually at the local level. It is important to highlight that the main objective of this research did not focus on economically profitable activity; instead, it was focused on the reduction of wastes to be disposed from ecosystem maintenance actions and the investment of potential income into preservation policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Morphological Analysis of Several Bamboo Species with Potential Structural Applications
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2126; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13132126 - 28 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 930
Abstract
Bamboo constitutes a family of plants that are very promising and interesting as renewable materials for both large and small structure construction. To be used as an alternative to traditional materials; the understanding of its morphology and mechanical behavior is of crucial importance. [...] Read more.
Bamboo constitutes a family of plants that are very promising and interesting as renewable materials for both large and small structure construction. To be used as an alternative to traditional materials; the understanding of its morphology and mechanical behavior is of crucial importance. As the distribution of fibers and vascular bundles differs for each type of bamboo; several bamboo types have been characterized: Phyllostachys aurea (PA), Arundinaria amabilis (AA) and Dendrocalamus strictus (DS). Morphological analysis has been performed by optical (OM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Differences in density; surface morphology and wall thickness have been found. In fact; PA and AA have shown a great morphological regularity; while DS presents the greatest thickness; to the point that it can be considered full culm. The plant’s own ducts constitute a very important factor for future impregnations and the optimization of mechanical properties for structure construction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Development of a Care Labelling Process for Compression Stockings Based on Natural (Cotton) Fibers
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2107; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13132107 - 26 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 818
Abstract
This study is to investigate to what extent the performance of compression stockings with cotton components deteriorates after repeated washing processes. Four compression stockings having at least one cotton constituent yarn and two all-nylon stockings as reference samples were produced under controlled commercial [...] Read more.
This study is to investigate to what extent the performance of compression stockings with cotton components deteriorates after repeated washing processes. Four compression stockings having at least one cotton constituent yarn and two all-nylon stockings as reference samples were produced under controlled commercial conditions. After analysing the data obtained, a care labelling process for the compression socks with cotton components was developed such that they can preserve their compression properties over successive laundering treatments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Environmental Hazards of Giant Reed (Arundo donax L.) in the Macaronesia Region and Its Characterisation as a Potential Source for the Production of Natural Fibre Composites
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2101; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13132101 - 25 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 795
Abstract
This paper summarises the results obtained from the characterisation of giant reed (Arundo donax L.) plant and fibres. The research is part of a project developed in the Macaronesia region, of which the aim is to demonstrate the feasibility of using biomass [...] Read more.
This paper summarises the results obtained from the characterisation of giant reed (Arundo donax L.) plant and fibres. The research is part of a project developed in the Macaronesia region, of which the aim is to demonstrate the feasibility of using biomass from invasive plant species in the composites sector as a way of financing control campaigns and habitats conservation labours. An experimental procedure for the extraction of fibre bundles from this plant was developed, and the material obtained was characterised in terms of chemical composition, thermogravimetry and infrared spectra to evaluate its potential application in the production of polymeric composite materials as a strategy for the valorisation of residual biomass from this invasive species in Macaronesia. Thermoplastic matrix composites with fibre content up to 40 wt.% were produced and their mechanical properties under tensile, flexural and impact loading were determined. No references on the preparation of composite materials with polyolefin matrices and giant reed fibres have been found. Results obtained from mechanical tests show a good performance of the manufactured composites, with a significant increase in both flexural and tensile stiffness; the flexural modulus is almost tripled for PE-based composites and rises to 88% with respect to PP matrix. The ultimate flexural strength and the tensile and flexural yield strength are kept at acceptable values compared to neat polymer materials, although ultimate tensile strength and impact resistance are significantly affected when natural fibres are added. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Article
Opuntia spp. Fibre Characterisation to Obtain Sustainable Materials in the Composites Field
Polymers 2021, 13(13), 2085; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13132085 - 24 Jun 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 822
Abstract
Some studies have evaluated the use of Opuntia as reinforcement for polymeric matrices, obtaining good results in energy absorption tests and increasing the tensile elastic modulus. However, no studies focusing on the previous characterisation of the fibres and their treatment to improve compatibility [...] Read more.
Some studies have evaluated the use of Opuntia as reinforcement for polymeric matrices, obtaining good results in energy absorption tests and increasing the tensile elastic modulus. However, no studies focusing on the previous characterisation of the fibres and their treatment to improve compatibility with polymeric matrices have been found. This work analyses the chemical composition of Opuntia maxima (OM) and Opuntia dillenii (OD) cladodes and fibre, studying how different treatments influence it. AOAC 2000 methods were used to determine non-structural components and the Van Soest method was used to estimate structural components. Surface characteristics of the samples were also evaluated by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Opuntia fibre presented higher cellulose (50–66%) and lignin (6–14%) content and lower hemicellulose (8–13%) content than Opuntia cladodes (9–14% cellulose, 20–50% hemicellulose, 1–4% lignin). Despite the variability of lignocellulosic materials, OD cladodes treated with water and acetic acid achieved an increase in the structural components. Alkaline fibre treatment removed pectin and hemicellulose from the fibre surface, slightly increasing the cellulose content. Future research should evaluate whether the treated Opuntia fibre can improve the mechanical properties of reinforced polymer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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Review

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Review
Protective Multifunctional Fibrous Systems Based on Natural Fibers and Metal Oxide Nanoparticles
Polymers 2021, 13(16), 2654; https://doi.org/10.3390/polym13162654 - 10 Aug 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1001
Abstract
In recent years, an unprecedented increase in the development of products and technologies to protect the human being has been observed. Now, more than ever, the world population is exposed to several threats, harmful to their well-being and health. Chemical and biological hazardous [...] Read more.
In recent years, an unprecedented increase in the development of products and technologies to protect the human being has been observed. Now, more than ever, the world population is exposed to several threats, harmful to their well-being and health. Chemical and biological hazardous agents stand out as one of the biggest threats, not only for the military forces, but also for the civilians. Consequently, it’s essential to develop personal protective systems that are able to protect their user, not only passively, but actively, being able to detect, adsorb, degrade and decontaminate pesticides, pollutants, microorganisms and most importantly: chemical/biological warfare agents. One recent strategy for the development of active fibrous structures with improved functions and new properties is their functionalization with nanoparticles (NPs), especially metal oxides. Although their known effectiveness in the decomposition of harmful agents, the NPs could also include other functionalities in the same structure using low quantities of material, without adding extra weight, which is of huge importance for a soldier in the battlefield. The use of natural fibers as the substrate is also very interesting, since this material is a much sustainable alternative when compared to synthetic ones, also providing excellent properties. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Fibers: High Performance Sustainable Materials)
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