Sunday, 2 July 2023

Why viscose becomes weak when in water

Viscose, also known as rayon, is a type of regenerated cellulose fiber derived from natural sources such as wood pulp or bamboo. When viscose is exposed to water, it undergoes a phenomenon called "water weakening," which can cause a decrease in its strength. Here's an explanation of why viscose becomes weak when in water:

Structure and Absorption of Water:
Viscose fibers have a porous structure that allows them to absorb and hold water molecules. The structure of viscose consists of long chains of cellulose molecules that are chemically processed and regenerated into fibers. These fibers have hydroxyl (-OH) groups, which have an affinity for water and can attract and absorb moisture.

Swelling Effect:
When viscose fibers come into contact with water, they undergo a process called swelling. Water molecules penetrate the fiber's porous structure and interact with the hydroxyl groups, causing the fibers to swell and increase in size. This swelling can lead to a weakening of the intermolecular forces between the cellulose chains, reducing the overall strength of the fiber.

Another factor contributing to the weakening of viscose in water is hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction in which water molecules break down the chemical bonds in the cellulose chains. Over time, prolonged exposure to water can cause the hydrolysis of the cellulose molecules, resulting in the degradation of the fiber and a decrease in its strength.

Loss of Molecular Alignment:
Viscose fibers are typically produced by extruding a viscous solution of cellulose through spinnerets, resulting in an alignment of the cellulose chains along the fiber axis. When the fibers absorb water, they can lose some of this molecular alignment. The loss of alignment weakens the internal structure of the fiber and reduces its tensile strength.

Sensitivity to Mechanical Stress:
Viscose fibers in a wet state are more prone to damage from mechanical stress. When wet, the fibers become softer and less resilient, making them susceptible to stretching and breaking under tension or abrasion.

It's important to note that the water weakening effect is more pronounced in wet conditions, and the degree of weakening depends on various factors such as the type of viscose, processing methods, fiber structure, and the duration and conditions of exposure to water.

To mitigate the water weakening effect, proper care and handling of viscose-based products are essential. This includes avoiding excessive agitation during washing, using mild detergents, and allowing the fabric to dry gently without wringing or excessive mechanical stress.

In summary, viscose fibers weaken in water due to the swelling effect, hydrolysis, loss of molecular alignment, and increased sensitivity to mechanical stress. Understanding these factors can help in the proper care and maintenance of viscose-based textiles to minimize any potential weakening or damage caused by water exposure.

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