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A morphology-related study on photodegradation of protein fibres

journal contribution
posted on 2008-09-18, 00:00 authored by Hu Zhang, K R Millington, Xungai Wang
The wool fibre has a complex morphology, consisting of an outer layer of cuticle scales surrounding an inner cortex. These two components are hard to separate effectively except by using harsh chemical treatments, making it difficult to determine the susceptibility of the different components of the fibre to photoyellowing. An approach to this problem based on mechanical fibre modification is described. To expose the inner cortex of wool to different degrees, clean wool fibres were converted into ‘powders’ of various fineness via mechanical chopping, air-jet milling, ball milling or their combination. Four types of powdered wool (samples A, B, C and D) were produced with reducing particle size distributions and an increasing level of surface damage as observed using SEM. Sample A contained essentially intact short fibre snippets and sample D contained a large amount of exposed cortical materials. Samples B and C contained a mixture of short fibre snippets and cortical materials. Solid wool discs were then compressed from the corresponding powder samples in a polished stainless steel die to enable colour measurement and UV irradiation studies. ATR-FTIR studies on powder discs demonstrated a small shift in the amide I band from 1644 cm−1 for disc A to 1654 cm−1 for disc D due to the different structures of the wool cuticle and cortex, in agreement with previous studies. Similarly an increase in the intensity ratio of the amide I to amide II band (1540 cm−1) was observed for disc D, which contains a higher fraction of cortical material at the surface of the disc.

Discs prepared from sample D appeared the lightest in colour before exposure and had the slowest photoyellowing rate, whereas discs made from powders A–C with a higher level of cuticle coverage were more yellow before exposure and experienced a faster rate of photoyellowing. This suggests that the yellow chromophores of wool may be more prevalent in cuticle scales, and that wool photoyellowing occurs to a greater extent in the cuticle than in the cortex. Photo-induced chemiluminescence measurements showed that sample D had a higher chemiluminescence intensity after exposure to UVA radiation and a faster decay rate than samples A and B. Thus one of the roles of the wool cuticle may be to protect the cortex by quenching of free radical oxidation during exposure to the UV wavelengths present in sunlight.



Journal of photochemistry and photobiology. B, Biology






135 - 143


Elsevier B.V.


Amsterdam, Netherlands







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2008, Elsevier BV