Linen made from flax fibre was virtually replaced by cotton in the 19th century, but it is regaining importance as an ecological natural fibre. Like hemp, flax belongs to the family of bast fibres. According to the literature, the raw flax fibres are 9–70 mm long and have an average fibre diameter of 19 µm. Flax has a cellulose content of 65–70 % and, compared to hemp, is characterised especially by its low natural lignin content. As with other natural fibres, the components also include hemicelluose, pectins, waxes and minerals. Flax fibres are mainly used in textiles in the form of linen. Additional areas of application with increasing demand are for insulating materials and fibre-reinforced plastic composites. Due to the favourable CO2 balance, they provide a large, sustainable substitution potential for glass fibres.
Like hemp, flax fibres can be divided into the traditionally produced long fibres and the short fibres produced in modern plants for technical purposes. Producing the long fibres requires them to be laid out in parallel on the field and dried. Drying and infestation by microorganisms causes the lignin and hemicellulose to degrade, which loosens or weakens the bond between the fibres and the matrix tissue. After retting, the material is cleaned in scutching mills through a series of mechanical treatment processes. Parallel positioning of the fibres during processing is of great importance. In contrast to long fibres, short fibres can also be produced from random layers of the retted raw material.
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