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Difference Between Natural and Synthetic Fibers Under a Microscope

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Have you ever wondered how natural fibers look different from synthetic or man-made ones under a microscope? Well, here you have the answer.

What is the Difference Between Natural Fiber and Synthetic Fiber under a Microscope?

We're all aware of the fact that natural fibers sit at a different place from synthetic ones under several conditions. Right from the origin to the usage, almost everything differentiates the former from the latter. In addition to these, both the fibers also bear distinct looks when viewed under a microscope, no matter if you consider the longitudinal or cross-sectional field of vision.

Stick to us and grab a more detailed idea.

What are Natural Fibers?

natural fiber
Natural fiber

Natural Fibers can be defined as the fibers that are obtained from natural sources. The sources can extend from botanical to zoological elements. In other words, the fibers acquired from plants and animals that occur naturally are termed Natural Fibers. Cotton, linen, hemp, wool, silk are a few examples of naturally transpiring fibers.

What are Synthetic Fibers? 

synthetic fiber
Synthetic fiber

As the name suggests, Synthetic fibers are the ones that are crafted from a series of chemical reactions. These kinds of fibers are not derived from natural sources, rather obtained from various types of chemical substances.

Synthetic or man-made or artificial fibers are made by synthesizing small molecules called polymers. Polymers are generally extracted from raw materials and chemical substances. To name some examples, we've Nylon, Polyester, Acrylic, and more.

Difference Between Natural Fibers and Synthetic Fibers Under a Microscope

Microscopic differences between natural fiber and artificial fiber revolve all around the looks section. To have a fair idea, let's walk through the longitudinal and cross-sectional views of some of the popular examples of natural and artificial fibers.

Longitudinal View

Natural Fibers (Source: Plants)

Cotton(Mature): A quick look will make you realize that it features a flat ribbon-like look with convolutions. The walls are thick alongside small lumen.

Cotton(Immature): Very large lumen with thin walls and quite a few convolutions.

Cotton(Dead): Transparent and thin.

Cotton(Mercerized): Smooth and Cylindrical. Bears less number of convolutions with the presence of lumens being uncertain.

Linen: The longitudinal view of Linen under a microscope gives a smooth and bamboo-like impression. Alongside lacking lengthwise striations and narrow lumen, you'll see some cross marking nodes.

Hemp: Featuring cross marking nodes, the longitudinal view of hemp looks smooth and cylindrical. There exists a broad lumen with no lengthwise striations.

Jute: These types of natural plant fiber look cylindrical with unevenness spread across the diameter. The lumen is broad in general but varies from one portion to the other.

Ramie: Bearing irregularly distributed cross marks, the fiber looks broad.

Natural Fibers (Source: Animals)

Wool: Gives a cylindrical impression with a rough surface. The structure is more like a scale and is also home to dark medulla that might appear on course.

Silk: Offers a smooth structureless surface that is shaped like a transparent rod. In some cases, you can even see longitudinal lines crossing the filament.

Synthetic Fibers

Viscose Rayon: Looks like normal dense lines or fine longitudinal striations.

viscose fiber
Viscose fiber

Cellulose Acetate Fibers: Home to a few distinct striations alongside the width that looks uniform under a microscope.

Acrylic: Features a rod-like appearance of uniform diameter with smooth surface. However, there are a few types that hold on to irregularly spaced striations.

Polyester: Appears like a rod of uniform diameter. The surface is smooth and structureless.

Nylon: Similar to other synthetic fibers, Nylon gives the impression of a uniform, smooth rod.

Cross-Sectional View

Natural Fibers (Source: Plants)

Cotton(Mature): The cross-sectional view resembles a Kidney to some extent.

Cotton(Immature): It features an elliptical structure.

Cotton(Dead): Looks like a very thin strip.

Cotton(Mercerized): The appearance of the shape tends to rest on the circular end.

Linen: As a natural fiber, Linen bears a strong, sharp polygon shape when the cross-sectional view is considered. It further features straight sides and a large lumen.

Hemp: Looks like a polygon to some extent.

Jute: The cross-sectional view will give you the impression of a rounded polygon. You can also see a central lumen.

Ramie: The shape appears to be like an oblong. An oblong is more like a flat figure with adjacent sides that aren't equal.

Natural Fibers (Source: Animals)

Wool: Appears nearly rounded with the presence of medulla being uncertain.

Silk: A closer cross-sectional look under the microscope will make you realize that silk holds on to a triangular shape with corners that are rounded.

Synthetic Fibers

Viscose Rayon: These look irregular with an oval or round outline.

Cellulose Acetate Fibers: Features irregular looks with a serrated outline.

Acrylic: With a rounded or dumbbell-like appearance, Acrylic looks pretty different.

Polyester: The cross-sectional view will give you the impression of a circle.

Nylon: Pretty similar to polyester, Nylon appears circular when the cross-sections are viewed.

Comparison Chart: Natural Fibers Vs. Synthetic Fibers

ParametersNatural Fibers (Plants)Natural Fibers (Animals)Synthetic Fibers
Longitudinal ViewCotton: Ribbon like

Linen: Bamboo like

Hemp: Cylindrical with cross marking nodes

Jute: Cylindrical with uneven diameter

Ramie: Irregular and road
Wool: Cylindrical shape, rough surface.

Silk: Smooth rod like
Viscose Rayon: Dense, fine lines

Cellulose Acetate: Uniform striations

Acrylic: Smooth, uniform, rod like

Polyester: Rod like

Nylon: Rod like
Cross-Sectional ViewCotton: Elliptical, Kidney

Linen: Sharp polygon

Hemp: Portion Polygon

Jute: Rounded Polygon

Ramie: Oblong
Wool: Rounded

Silk: Triangular
Viscose Rayon: Irregular oval

Cellulose Acetate: Irregular with a serrated outline

Acrylic: Dumbbell like

Polyester: Circular

Nylon: Circular

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is stronger: Natural Fibers Vs. Synthetic Fibers?

Although some natural fibers offer a strong built, compared to the man-made ones, they are pretty weak. In other words, Synthetic fibers rest more on the stronger side when compared to most of the Natural Fibers.

Which is more consumer-friendly, Natural Fibers Vs. Synthetic Fibers?

Natural fibers are the ones that are used in the purest form, while the case for synthetic ones is different. Scientific implementation can help enhance the characteristics of any synthetic fiber and make it more consumer-friendly. However, there are some natural fibers, which feature brilliant elements even in the “no-dope” form.


With that, we come to the end of this article. Here we’ve discussed how natural fibers' longitudinal and cross-sectional view looks different from that of synthetic fibers when viewed under a microscope. Everything is mentioned in the most user-friendly nature to make sure you get aware of the differentiating elements with no issues whatsoever. In case you find trouble getting along with it, the comment section is available for you to make use of.


Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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