Pina Fiber: History, Properties, Production Process

Pina fiber

What is Pina Fiber?

Pina fiber comes from pineapple plant leaves. It belongs to the Bromeliaceae family and is in the “ananas” genus. These plants generally reach a height of 1.5 meters. They thrive with 100 to 150 cm of rainfall and temperatures between 22 and 32 degrees Celsius. The leaves grow best at 32 degrees Celsius. This climate is common in coastal areas, making pina fiber ideal for tropical and subtropical countries with high humidity.

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History of Pina Fiber

Pina fiber, highly regarded in the Philippines, has a long history dating back to the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. While the Spanish are often credited with introducing pina fabric to the Philippines, locals were already skilled in weaving natural fibers. In the 1700s, pina fabric was worn mainly by less privileged people, but by the 1800s, it became a symbol of status among the elite, thanks to more affordable fabrics. During the 19th century, the Spanish exported pina fiber as a luxury textile, competing with European lace. However, by the mid-1800s, it lost popularity due to cheap factory-made clothing from Britain and America. The 1980s saw a decline in pina fiber due to the rise of cheap cotton textile fiber. Because the Philippines lacked independence during this time, the government didn’t support Pina fiber production. It was considered small-scale, and production units nearly vanished by the 20th century. With the Philippines gaining independence in the late 20th century, efforts were made to revive Pina fiber production.

Properties of Pina Fiber

  • Pina fibers are coarser than cotton.
  • Pina fibers are lightweight.
  • Pina fibers come in shades from ivory white to a slight yellow, and they shine with a natural luster.
  • Pina fibers have a low specific gravity.
  • Pina fibers are perfect for hot tropical climates.
  • Pina fiber easily takes in dyes, often from natural sources used by native Filipinos.
  • Cleaning pina fiber is simple; it can be washed at home without much fuss. It’s also commonly mixed with other fibers like cotton, silk, or polyester.
  • Pina fibers have waxy substances that make them resistant to moisture.

Chemical Composition

  • Holocellulose: 70–82%
  • Lignin: 5–12%
  • Ash: 1.1%

Processing of Pina Fiber

  • Selecting Pineapple Leaves: The first step is to carefully choose pineapple leaves, a crucial decision that greatly affects the fiber’s characteristics. Young leaves produce softer, weaker fibers, while over-mature leaves from sun-exposed plants yield shorter, coarser, and more brittle fibers. To obtain stronger and more flexible fibers, it’s vital to select moderately mature leaves from partially shaded plants. Certain pineapple varieties like Kews are known for their longer, heavier, and broader leaves.
  • Retting Pineapple Leaves: In this process, the harvested leaves are tied and submerged in a retting tank containing Urea or di-ammonium phosphate. This facilitates the extraction of various chemical components, such as pentosans, lignin, fat, wax, ash content, pectin, and nitrogenous matter. After the retting process is complete, the leaves are removed, mechanically washed with fresh water, dried, and hung in the open air.
  • Degumming Pineapple Leaf Fiber: Pineapple leaf fiber naturally contains gummy substances that make it brittle and coarse, typically with a denier ranging from 25 to 35. To enhance the softness and fineness of the fibers, degumming is necessary. This can be accomplished using either alkali or acid. The process begins by boiling the fibers in an aqueous alkaline solution and subsequently washing them with water to neutralize. After degumming, the linear density of pineapple leaf fiber typically falls within the range of 12-20 deniers.
  • Chemical Modifications: The most common method for bleaching and cleaning the surface of natural fibers to produce high-quality fibers involves alkali treatment or mercerization using sodium hydroxide (NaOH). NaOH reacts with the hydroxyl groups present in the cementing materials of natural fibers, resulting in the breakdown of the cellular structure and the separation of fibers into filaments. However, it’s important to note that while hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) bleach can improve PALF fineness by approximately 5-6%, it tends to reduce tensile strength by 40-45%.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Pina fibers, despite their delicate appearance, are incredibly durable and versatile. They possess impressive tensile strength, remaining tear-resistant even after prolonged use. Pina fiber can be blended effectively with materials like silk and cotton for various applications, offering breathability and lightweight comfort in clothing.
Additionally, pina fiber readily absorbs dyes, making it ideal for DIY projects, crafts, accessories, and dyed clothing. This eco-friendly fiber provides a canvas for artistic exploration, allowing for vibrant colors and different designs. The texture of Pina fiber can create both sturdy and delicate woven fabrics.
Not only do these fibers have appealing properties, but they also offer a sustainable option for those concerned about the environmental impact of fast fashion and synthetic textiles. Pina fiber comes from pineapple leaf waste, promoting sustainability and a circular economy. Pineapple plants thrive with minimal water requirements and naturally decompose as they are plant-based.
Unfortunately, Pina fiber remains primarily available in Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, limiting its accessibility in other regions. Labor-intensive production and the fiber’s delicacy may result in higher production costs and require careful handling. Efforts in research and development continue to address these challenges and enhance the usability of Pina fiber.

Uses For Pina Fiber

  • Home Textiles: This category includes products such as tablecloths, linens, mats, rugs, curtains, and upholstery.
  • Apparel: Designers use pineapple fabric, known for its luxury feel, to create women’s dresses, men’s shirts, and fashion accessories. Its lightweight and sheer nature makes it ideal for comfortable wear in tropical climates.
  • Calado: Calado, a traditional hand embroidery technique from the Philippines, is often incorporated into Pina fabric. Garments adorned with this unique traditional embroidery are called “Pina calado.” They are dyed using natural pigments extracted from various parts of the pineapple tree, like its leaves and bark.
  • Pina-tex: Pina-tex serves as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional leather, manufactured from cellulose fibers taken from pineapple leaves and blended with PLA and petroleum-based resin.
Pina Fiber: History, Properties, Production Process
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