Research Topic

Natural Fiber Products and Their Multi-Scale Nature: State-of-the-Art and Perspectives

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This Research Topic embraces the description of fundamental biomechanisms, as well as systems and processes developed for transforming plant fiber materials into intermediate and finalized products. Plant fiber renewable resources are being increasingly explored and utilized in engineering polymers and ...

This Research Topic embraces the description of fundamental biomechanisms, as well as systems and processes developed for transforming plant fiber materials into intermediate and finalized products. Plant fiber renewable resources are being increasingly explored and utilized in engineering polymers and composites due to their combination of environmental and technical performance. Given the vast amount of available research in this area, a significant step forward in the development of the next-generation plant fiber-based products would be to device a framework for rational design - as opposed to a commonly used fuzzy design. This aim is ambitious, and the potential future development in rational use of plant fibers based on bottom-up and top-down approaches, separately or concomitantly, needs to be fostered by case studies.

One popular school of thought propagates a strategy that ‘rationality’ relies upon the knowledge of the entire integrated chain: from the organism genome, to the interaction of environment and management practices, to the transformation processes, and finally the plant fibre products.
There is a current research gap, and we are looking for illustration of plant fiber typologies, convenience for dedicated processing, or suitability for materials functions, as well as ideotypes that harbor a suite of characters that would increase plant fiber product performances.

Although scientific publications exist on the effect of a specific plant fiber on the performance of its derivative material, one can hardly find publications which provide syntheses of the key findings into a unified hypothesis and multi-criteria index to drive our fundamental understanding about the importance of a fiber type for dedicated applications. In part, this may be attributed to involuntary sparse description of variables impacting causal relationships; for example, plant fiber heterogeneity may depend on growth conditions, and sampling location within plants are often unknown or neglected by the scientific community working on processing. Downstream of this, many parametric process optimization studies do not consider the heterogeneity and variation in quality of the plant fibers that are used. Overall, the appeal to trigger an integrative analysis, or develop a generic understanding of the causalities in the system have faced issues relating to partial data reporting.
We believe that the target scientific community is at the right stage for a special research topic issue focusing on the main length scales along the continuum of ‘plant fiber production - their processing - their products’. The latest know-how on how plant fibers obtain their structure and the consequences on function and properties are requisites for gaining knowledge on the interactions between the tryptic of plant fiber quality- the processing predisposition- and the products performances for in fine of discovering original functions for the plant fiber products.

We invite contributions in the form of original research articles, as well as state-of-the-art reviews, and perspectives and opinions papers, showing novelty and imparting clarity on interactions at the multiple length scales along the the continuum of the plant fiber cultures to the plant fiber based products’.

• On plant fibers, manuscripts are expected to highlight a dominant factor or a multi-criteria index explaining an observed change in one targeted property. This means bridging the gap between genes and some phenotypic traits that are the target property, and that result from genes. For illustration, this covers identifying a pre-existing marker, such as Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) analysis or phenotype traits of interest in the plant fiber materials or products thereof. The plant fiber heterogeneity depending on the interaction of plant, environment, management and sampling location within plants are of interest. Their consequences are usually covered by plant biomechanics, thygmomorphogenesis, orgravitropic responses studies at the scales of the stem, or at the fiber cell walls in terms of mechanical behavior. Here, by natural fiber, we refer to lignocellulosic bast and wood fibers (including softwood tracheids that are not regarded as plant fibers, although they are included as technically they play a crucial role as softwood fibers), trichomes (cotton) and seed hairs as well as leaf (from monocot leaves) and fruit fibers like coir (extracted from the mesocarp of coconut fruits), with this list being non-exclusive.

• Regarding processing, contributions on the first stage (retting or extraction of fibers from plants) or the second stage (e.g. injection-extrusion molding of fibers into plastic composites) of plant fiber transformation are welcome. In close connection with the plant fiber quality, we are expecting breakthroughs about process parameters that rely on performances of the product. This means more or less susceptibility to be revealed during a transformation process, i.e the individualization of fibers, or to ‘survived’ during the transformation as the crystanility index or fiber length. Also, articles revisiting and exploring process optimization for plant fiber, or describing new disruptive engineering technologies and methods are part of innovations expected for this topic.

• Finally, regarding plant fiber based products, contributions about designing novel plant fiber based products for original applications, i.e programmed obsolescence of manufactured large diffusion materials, sensoring or actuating functions are illustrations of the current dynamic. Materials of targeted cutting-edge properties are also wanted at the condition that reports connect the upstream building-blocks with the specific material’s function or properties.


Keywords: Plant Fiber, Fibre Based Materials, Structure-Property-Processing Relations


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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