coir n : stiff coarse fiber from the outer husk of a coconut
- genitive of cor
Coir (from Malayalam kayar, cord) is a coarse fibre extracted from the fibrous outer shell of a coconut.
StructureCoir fibers are found between the husk and the outer shell of a coconut. The individual fiber cells are narrow and hollow, with thick walls made of cellulose. They are pale when immature but later become hardened and yellowed as a layer of lignin is deposited on their walls. There are two varieties of coir. Brown coir is harvested from fully ripened coconuts. It is thick, strong and has high abrasion resistance. It is typically used in mats, brushes and sacking. Mature brown coir fibers contain more lignin and less cellulose than fibers such as flax and cotton and so are stronger but less flexible. They are made up of small threads, each about 1 mm long and 10 to 20 micrometres in diameter. White coir fibers are harvested from the coconuts before they are ripe. These fibers are white or light brown in color and are smoother and finer, but also weaker. They are generally spun to make yarn that is used in mats or rope.
The coir fiber is relatively water-proof and is one of the few natural fibers resistant to damage by salt water. Fresh water is used to process brown coir, while sea water and fresh water are both used in the production of white coir.
ProcessingCoconuts are the seed of the palm trees, these palms flower on a monthly basis and the fruit takes 1 year to ripen. A typical palm tree has fruit in every stage of maturity. A mature tree can produce 50–100 coconuts per year. Coconuts can be harvested from the ground once they have ripened and fallen or they can be harvested while still on the tree. A human climber can harvest approximately 25 trees in a day, while a knife attached to a pole can up the number to 250 trees harvested in a day. Monkeys can also be trained to harvest the coconuts, but this practice is less efficient than other methods. Green coconuts, harvested after about six to twelve months on the plant, contain pliable white fibres. Brown fibre is obtained by harvesting fully mature coconuts when the nutritious layer surrounding the seed is ready to be processed into copra and desiccated coconut. The fibrous layer of the fruit is then separated from the hard shell (manually) by driving the fruit down onto a spike to split it (De-husking). A well seasoned husker can manually separate 2,000 coconuts per day. Machines are now available which crush the whole fruit to give the loose fibres. These machines can do up to 2,000 coconuts per hour.
Brown fibreThe fibrous husks are soaked in pits or in nets in a slow moving body of water to swell and soften the fibres. The long bristle fibres are separated from the shorter mattress fibres underneath the skin of the nut, a process known as wet-milling. The mattress fibres are sifted to remove dirt and other rubbish, dried in the sun and packed into bales. Some mattress fibre is allowed to retain more moisture so that it retains its elasticity for 'twisted' fibre production. The coir fibre is elastic enough to twist without breaking and it holds a curl as though permanently waved. Twisting is done by simply making a rope of the hank of fibre and twisting it using a machine or by hand. The longer bristle fibre is washed in clean water and then dried before being tied into bundles or hunks. It may then be cleaned and 'hackled' by steel combs to straighten the fibres and remove any shorter fibre pieces. Coir bristle fibre can also be bleached and dyed to obtain hanks of different colours.
White fibreThe immature husks are suspended in a river or water-filled pit for up to ten months. During this time micro-organisms break down the plant tissues surrounding the fibres to loosen them — a process known as retting. Segments of the husk are then beaten by hand to separate out the long fibres which are subsequently dried and cleaned. Cleaned fibre is ready for spinning into yarn using a simple one-handed system or a spinning wheel.
UsesBrown coir is used in floor mats and doormats, brushes, mattresses, floor tiles and sacking. A small amount is also made into twine. Pads of curled brown coir fibre, made by needle-felting (a machine technique that mats the fibres together) are shaped and cut to fill mattresses and for use in erosion control on river banks and hillsides. A major proportion of brown coir pads are sprayed with rubber latex which bonds the fibres together (rubberised coir) to be used as upholstery padding for the automobile industry in Europe. The material is also used for insulation and packaging.
The major use of white coir is in rope manufacture. Mats of woven coir fibre are made from the finer grades of bristle and white fibre using hand or mechanical looms. White coir also used to make fishing nets due to its strong resilience to salt water.
In horticulture, coir is recommended as substitute for peat because it is free of bacteria and fungal spores, and is sustainably produced without the environmental damage caused by peat mining.
Major producersTotal world coir fibre production is 250,000 tonnes. The coir fibre industry is particularly important in some areas of the developing world. India, mainly the coastal region of Kerala State, produces 60% of the total world supply of white coir fibre. Sri Lanka produces 36% of the total world brown fibre output. Over 50% of the coir fibre produced annually throughout the world is consumed in the countries of origin, mainly India. Together India and Sri Lanka produce 90% of the 250,000 metric tons of coir produced every year.
Waste / By-productsCoir fibres make up about 1/3 of the of coconut pulp. The other 2/3 is called the pith or dust, it is biodegradable but takes 20 years to decompose. Once considered useless it is now being used as mulch, soil treatment and a hydroponic growth medium.
coir in French: Coir
coir in Georgian: ბანარი
coir in Russian: Койр
coir in Czech: Kokosové textilní vlákno