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Official Journal of the Japan Wood Research Society

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Excellent oil absorbent kapok [Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn.] fiber: fiber structure, chemical characteristics, and application


The study focused on kapok [Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn.] fruit as a biomass for effective utilization. Kapok fruits were harvested just before full maturation at the campus of University of the Philippines Los Banos and in southern Vietnam. The kapok fibers are utilized locally as fiberfill in pillows, quilts, and some soft toys. Kapok fiber was isolated and analyzed microscopically, and the physicochemical properties were determined by spectroscopic methods. Some tests were done to determine the effective utilization of kapok fiber. Microscopic analysis of the higher structure of kapok fiber gave quite different results from cotton fiber, which has a significantly homogeneous hollow tube shape and is composed of cellulose (35 % dry fiber), xylan (22%), and lignin (21.5%). Kapok fiber is characterized by having a high level of acetyl groups (13.0%). Usually cell walls of plants contain about 1%–2% of acetyl groups attached to noncellulosic polysaccharides. Kapok fiber is significantly hydrophobic and does not get wet with water. Thus, the absorptivity of oil was tested. The fiber selectively absorbed significant amounts of oil (40 g/g of fiber) from an oil suspension in freshwater and seawater. It is suggested that this fiber could be used to recover oil spilled in seawater.


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Correspondence to Kenji Iiyama.

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Hori, K., Flavier, M.E., Kuga, S. et al. Excellent oil absorbent kapok [Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn.] fiber: fiber structure, chemical characteristics, and application. J Wood Sci 46, 401–404 (2000).

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