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Cloth of amber

Extrude plant resins for textiles
  (+6, -2)
(+6, -2)
  [vote for,

In days of yore, cloth of gold was woven from golden threads. Today, acrylic resin is used as a textile or as a plastic. However, it is synthetic. There seem to be rather few biological materials used as textiles, namely, keratin, cellulose, silk, leather, rubber and semi-synthetic stuff made from peanut protein.
In a sense, this is two ideas, but they are very similar. Firstly, amber could be melted before being extruded through a nozzle as modern synthetic fibres are, but unlike them it is not synthetic, and also unlike them, it is relatively expensive. Hence cloth of amber would be a luxury fabric like silk, but not so much as spun precious metals would be. Secondly, amber is not some special prehistoric substance, but is still being formed today and is only one of a number of plant resins, some of which are very suitable for similar treatment. Such resin could be harvested from trees just as latex can be - by carefully cutting the tree and removing its still-liquid secretion, such as rosin, dragon's blood or mastic. The result would be a synthetic-seeming fibre that was actually a biological substance. It might be difficult to dye it though.
nineteenthly, Jul 11 2005

Amber oxidises http://www.gplatt.d....co.uk/transfor.htm
(see about 2/3rds of the way down the page) [Basepair, Jul 11 2005]

The Amber Room http://www.usnews.c...mysteries/amber.htm
Good feedstock, if you can find it. [bungston, Jul 11 2005]

Soldiers looking like lobsters http://www.ruble-en...com/lobstertail.htm
[TolpuddleSartre, Jul 11 2005]


       Uses would include...luxury fly-paper!
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Jul 11 2005

       Would it not be brittle?   

       [2fries] I don't suppose the flies'll notice.
coprocephalous, Jul 11 2005

       Ha - naturally creating artificial fibers! Not sure you could market it as a premium product, tho.
DrCurry, Jul 11 2005

       Color the liquid before it dries.
baconbrain, Jul 11 2005

       Similar to rayon, which is spun wood fibre, sort of.
hippo, Jul 11 2005

       Extruding the fibers thin enough it should be flexible enough to wear, but it would still be relatively friable. I wouldn't wear this stuff - it'd be like wearing fiberglass.
elhigh, Jul 11 2005

       Sadly, amber is subject to oxidation, and this would presumably happen very, very fast with thin (high area-to- volume ratio) fibres. You might need to coat the fibres - how about a thin layer of gold? <linky>
Basepair, Jul 11 2005

       This makes me think there might be a niche for chitin-derived fabrics. One could use crab and lobster shells as the raw materials.
bungston, Jul 11 2005

       Thanks for the link, [Basepair]. I see that oxidation does corrode amber, but this isn't necessarily a minus as this makes it degrade without major environmental impact. I expect the oxidation of resin is one reason why it "dries", as is the case with various fixed vegetable oils. It would depend on how fast it took place. Even so, coating it in gold is a very interesting idea. If resins other than amber were used, they could well be quite stable - rosin and dragon's blood are quite stable even in thin layers.
Another benefit of coating it in gold might be to soften the fibres and prevent them from getting too itchy, if this is a problem in the first place. Another way of doing this would be to introduce a lining. However, i don't think it would be that friable because it would probably be substantially similar to acrylic, which isn't. I tried this out on a piece of fresh resin from a tree today and was able to produce a fibre about the same diameter as a human hair. It was possible to fold it without causing it to snap. It might have become more brittle with time, but i do think it would be very like acrylic. And indeed you could probably dye it by adding the squid ink or whatever while it was liquid, but i wonder if it would alter the properties too much. Some plant resins are already coloured, either red or amber usually, i think.
nineteenthly, Jul 11 2005

       [bung], great idea! Even better than exerting even more pressure on overfished shellfish, let's get our chitin from cockroaches!   

       I bet Florida could spare a few.
elhigh, Jul 11 2005

       Chitin is also a component of fungal cell walls, which already form fibres in the form of mycelium, so there could be a short cut there. I expect it would have to be spun rather than woven though. There are parasitic barnacles that attach themselves to their hosts with fibres that i expect are sturdier, and there are also byssal threads on mussels, which have actually been used as a textile, i think.
nineteenthly, Jul 11 2005

       And if our soldiers looked like lobsters, what would they think then? Would they fear the lobsters?
daseva, Jul 11 2005

       What about using byssal threads from Zebra mussels?
nineteenthly, Jul 11 2005

       //And if our soldiers looked like lobsters// [linky]
TolpuddleSartre, Jul 11 2005

       Or perhaps treat and extrude rosin, but still a good idea. +
sartep, Jul 12 2005

       Cotton and most types of paper are both made of cellulose, but that doesn't mean you get paper cuts off the former. There's also the question of acrylic. Bits of perspex/plexiglass that have been ground up into sharp shards are fairly irritant for mechanical reasons, but the same substance in the form of a fibre forms a relatively soft fabric. It might also depend on how long the fibres are. In a spun fabric, these might be shorter, but with a textile woven from longer fibres, there would be fewer ends in contact with the skin, assuming they have no coating or lining, and if there is any irritation from the ends of fibres, it would be lessened or eliminated if they were longer.
If this problem exists, and is insoluble, the fabric could still be used like jute or sisal, as curtains, sacking or as a geotextile. Why someone might want a degradable geotextile i don't know.
I need to know more about textile technology.
nineteenthly, Jul 12 2005

       The issue isn't so much that the material is prickly - and I'm certain it would be, perhaps as bad as or even worse than a crude wool - but that it is very coarse, and it is the rough texture that makes it so uncomfortable directly on the skin.   

       As outerwear, jackets and such, this stuff has potential. For that matter, if it is tough enough, it could go a long way toward replacing synthetic synthetic fibers in lots of industries: automotive, carpeting, footwear, luggage etc.
elhigh, Jul 12 2005


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