Bamboo fiber is an artificial fiber made from regenerated cellulose.
Despite it being a raw material used for thousands of years, production methods for its creation are contemporary, and only recently have they been perfected. Bamboo belongs to a family of plants that diverge widely in size and growth rate.
Considered a type of grass, it can vary between 30 cm and 30 meters in height. At the same time, it is one of the fastest growing plants, with some species reaching almost 1 cm per day, without the need for pesticides, and only rarely affected by pests or other pathogens.
Innovation in production methods has focused the attention on bamboo fiber as a sustainable and biodegradable alternative. Peking University, in Beijing, China, is believed to have been responsible for its creation, although many other producers have also claimed it, around the same time.
Bamboo fiber is a type of artificial fiber, made from the bamboo plant and considered one of the most natural and environmentally friendly alternatives that exist today. This is due to its 100% biodegradable nature.
Bamboo fiber decomposes in only a few years in the soil, due to the action of the sun and the most diverse microorganisms, in a process with zero impact on the environment.
However, this is only possible when it is produced using a method very similar to that of Lyocell. When not using this process, the production of bamboo fiber will be more like the process followed for creating Viscose. In this scenario, an equally sustainable alternative is maintained but the production costs are lower, and the environmental impact is only slightly higher.
The vast majority of bamboo fiber manufacturing follows this second method, in which cellulose is obtained directly from the plant’s stalks and leaves, with an alkaline hydrolysis process applied, resulting in a sustainable alternative with unique properties.
Bamboo fiber is very similar to cotton and finds the same type of application in the most diverse areas. Therefore, their characteristics are very similar. Some consumers even admit to preferring bamboo fiber, not only for the intrinsic environmental value but because it also has some unique advantages.
It is highly breathable, more flexible, and softer than other options, with a texture reminiscent of cashmere and silk. At the same time, its absorption levels are much higher than other existing possibilities, allowing the body's air to be ventilated and creating thermal balance throughout the year.
But bamboo fiber still has one other unique feature: antibacterial properties.
Although the scientific consensus around this matter is not yet broad enough, some studies indicate it can maintain the same antibacterial properties that allow for the plant to grow without the effects of some pathogens.
This also means articles produced are more resistant to odors. In turn, this implies less washing. Yet another point for environmental action, reducing water and energy consumption. These characteristics help explain why most items produced include underwear, socks, t-shirts, or other pieces mostly used in direct contact with the human body.
This is a common question regarding bamboo fiber. The answer can be found in the method used for its creation. There are three common ways of producing bamboo fiber. Two of them were already mentioned: the viscose method and the Lyocell process.
To these types we must add one other: mechanically produced bamboo fiber.
Briefly, this is the most natural process that can be used to create bamboo fiber, as there are no other chemical substances involved, other than natural enzymes. These are used to shatter the plant’s cell walls, then mechanically combed to produce the fiber.
Unfortunately, this is a very intensive labor, as well as expensive. As such, many companies decide not to use it.
Characteristics of the bamboo fiber, including its aesthetic properties, have been increasingly attracting the attention of the market and consumers for this sustainable alternative. The same applies to the fashion world, with more and more designers making use of it to create their pieces.
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This text was written and published in 2021