Regenerated Protein Fibers
Azlon is the generic name for a manmade fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is composed of any regenerated, naturally occurring protein.
The fiber-forming substance can be derived from various naturally occurring proteins such as skimmed milk (casein), eggs (albumin), corn and soy (zein), chicken feathers (keratin), leather and hide waste (collagen). It is produced, like many other synthetic fibers, by processing the fiber-forming substance to a solution that can be extruded through spinnerets and then stretched to improve the alignment of the polymer chains.
Azlon has many interesting properties. For example, it has a soft and warm touch like cashmere, it is skin-friendly, and it has excellent breathability. It is also easy to dye with bright and shiny colors and high dyeing rate. On the down-side, Azlon fibers are relative weak and have low tensile strength and poor elastic recovery, especially when wet. In order to improve the mechanical properties, the proteins are occasionally blended with synthetic polymers such as acrylonitrile or vinyl alcohol by graft copolymerization or blending.
COMMERCIAL AZLON FIBERS
Azlon fibers were mainly manufactured from the early to mid-twentieth century. The main sources were soy, peanuts, corn and milk. Today, only a few companies make Azlon fibers because its performance cannot compete with other manmade fibers. However, some protein-based fibers are still made today but not in significant quantities. For example, new regenerated protein fibers were developed and produced by Shandong Helon Co. in corporation with Wuhan Textile University (China) and independently by Kurabo (Lunacel, Japan), using various raw materials, such as wool, silk scraps, feathers and other animal hair.
Azlon and Azlon hybrid fibers are ideal for moisture absorbing and releasing apparel with UV blocking and antistatic properties. It has a silk and luxurious texture and could be used for for high-end apparel and sportswear.
The production and demand of Azlon and other fibers made from renewable raw materials will most likely increase in the coming years since eco-friendly, biodegraded, and sustainable fibers are gaining popularity.