What is the Difference Between Cellulosic and Synthetic Fiber

The key difference between cellulosic and synthetic fiber is that cellulosic fibers are either naturally occurring or man-made fibers using natural sources such as plant parts, whereas synthetic fibers are essentially man-made fibers made with petroleum oil.

Cellulosic and synthetic fibers are the two major forms of fibers which include natural or artificial sources of fibre.

CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Cellulosic Fiber
3. What is Synthetic Fiber
4. Cellulosic vs Synthetic Fiber in Tabular Form
5. Summary – Cellulosic vs Synthetic Fiber 

What is Cellulosic Fiber?

Cellulosic fiber is a type of fiber made of ethers or esters of cellulose. This cellulose feed can be obtained from bark, wood, or leaves of plants. We can also use other plant-based materials. Additionally, cellulosic fibers also contain hemicellulose and lignin, having different percentages of each component, which alters the mechanical properties of the fiber.

When considering the chemical structure of cellulosic fibers, cellulose consists of a polymer structure having many repeating glucose molecules that are attached in an end-to-end pattern. It is a straight-chain polymer material that has a long, rod-like shape. Cellulosic fibers contain microfibrils of cellulose in a matrix structure that has hemicellulose and lignin. There are hydrogen bonds between the long chains of cellulose in natural cellulosic fibers, which makes it stiff and strong.

There are different types of cellulosic fibers, such as natural cellulosic fibers and synthetic cellulosic fibers. Natural cellulosic fibers are the parts of plants, e.g. cotton fibers, linen fibers, etc. Synthetic or manufactured cellulosic fibers are made from plants and are processed into a pulp, which is then extruded in the same way as polyester or nylon production. The most common synthetic cellulosic fibers include rayon and viscose.

Figure 01: Structure of Cellulosic Fibers

There are different applications of cellulosic fibers, including the textile industry, as composite materials where we can combine cellulosic fiber with another material to make more stiff material. This material is important in the filtration process to filter elements such as powdered cellulose, etc.

What is Synthetic Fiber?

Synthetic fiber is a type of man-made fibers, made from petroleum. Typically, this type of fiber is made from polymers we can find in natural gas and other byproducts of petroleum oil. More importantly, all the fabrics are usually made from artificial or man-made fiber sources. These synthetic fibers contain a small unit or a polymer that is made from the monomers (repeating units of the polymer). The major synthetic fibers include nylon, acrylic, polyurethane, and polypropylene. This form of synthetic fiber is made in million tons all over the world annually.

Figure 02: Synthetic Fibers

We can classify the synthetic fibers into three groups as rayon, nylon, and polyester. Rayon is made from wood pulp, and nylon is produced from coal, water and air, whereas polyester is made from coal water, air and petroleum.

There are many advantages of synthetic fiber materials, which include high durability, difficulty in wrinkling, elastic nature, strong ability to sustain a heavy load, and low prices. However, there can be some disadvantages as well, which include difficulty in absorbing moisture, effects in washing with hot water, and tendency to catch fire easily.

What is the Difference Between Cellulosic and Synthetic Fiber?

Cellulosic and synthetic fibers are the two major forms of fibers that include natural or artificial sources of fibre. The key difference between cellulosic and synthetic fiber is that cellulosic fibers are either naturally occurring or man-made fibers using natural sources such as plant parts whereas synthetic fibers are essentially man-made fibers made with petroleum oil.

The following infographic lists the differences between cellulosic and synthetic fiber in tabular form for side by side comparison.

Summary – Cellulosic vs Synthetic Fiber

Cellulosic and synthetic fibers are the two major forms of fibers which include natural or artificial sources of the fiber. The key difference between cellulosic and synthetic fiber is that cellulosic fibers are either naturally occurring or man-made fibers using natural sources such as plant parts whereas synthetic fibers are essentially man-made fibers made with petroleum oil.