Natural fiber

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Most plants and animals produce natural fibers. This article deals mainly with those fibers that are useful for Martian settlement. Synthetic fiber has succeeded natural fiber in many applications on Earth, but it requires a larger industrial base than will likely be available to initial settlements. Moreover, most synthetic fibres are made from crude oil, which is unlikely to exist on Mars in the first place.

Plant Fibers

Plant fibers are likely the first to be produced in any settlement. Though they often involve post-processing, overall they require less resource and time investment than animal fiber.

Cotton

The cotton plant produces white fibers which surround its seeds. These seeds must be removed before the cotton can be processed. Cotton is commonly used in textiles and fine paper. Wet cotton clothing looses much of its insulating properties.
Once the seeds have been removed, cotton is almost completely pure cellulose[1]

Linen

Linen is obtained from the processed stocks of the flax plant. It is used in clothing and bedding.

Hemp

Hemp is a strong fiber obtained from the plant of the same name. It was commonly used in ropes and rigging. Hemp bridges still span canyons and rivers in some regions on Earth. It has been replaced by synthetic fiber in many applications.

Bamboo

The fibers of bamboo, once chemically processed, become soft and easily woven into textiles. The chemical treatment needed may restrict bamboo to food and structural applications.

Animal Fibers

The production of animal fibers is more resource intensive than that of plant fibers. The animals take up space and resources, and require constant care by residents.

Silk

Silk is produced by the silkworm as it spins its cocoon. Silkworms feed on mulberry leaves, and may be impractical for small settlements.

Spider Silk

Spiders produce silk for shelter, support, and the capture of prey. So far, efforts to produce commercially viable quantities of spider silk have failed.

Wool

Wool is the long, flexible hair of mammals such as goats, alpacas and sheep. It is a better thermal insulator than cotton or linen, and retains much of its insulation value even when wet. Certain wools are rough and can cause skin irritation.

Hair

Many types of hair are unfit for use as wool. These hairs are used as bristles in brushes and brooms. When still attached to the hide they can be fashioned into fir clothing.

Sinew

The ligaments of animals contain large amounts of the natural polymer collagen. Sinew is durable (for a natural fiber), and is used as thread and cordage.

References

  1. J.G. Smith - Organic chemistry Int'l ed. 2011. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-007-108186-3. p. 1059.