The useful features of microfiber
Microfiber (or microfibre) is synthetic fiber finer than one denier or decitex/thread, having a diameter of less than ten micrometres. This is smaller than the diameter of a strand of silk (which is approximately one denier), which is itself about 1/5 the diameter of a human hair. The most common types of microfibers are made from polyesters, polyamides (e.g., nylon, Kevlar, Nomex, trogamide), or a conjugation of polyester, polyamide, and polypropylene. Microfiber is used to make mats, knits, and weaves for apparel, upholstery, industrial filters, and cleaning products. The shape, size, and combinations of synthetic fibers are selected for specific characteristics, including softness, toughness, absorption, water repellency, electrostatics, and filtering capabilities.
Production of ultra-fine fibers (finer than 0.7 denier) dates back to the late 1950s, using melt-blown spinning and flash spinning techniques. However, only fine staples of random length could be manufactured and very few applications could be found. Experiments to produce ultra-fine fibers of a continuous filament type were made subsequently, the most promising of which were run in Japan during the 1960s by Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto, a scientist at Toray Industries. Okamoto's discoveries, together with those of Dr. Toyohiko Hikota, resulted in many industrial applications. Among these was Ultrasuede, one of the first successful synthetic microfibers, which found its way onto the market in the 1970s. Microfiber's use in the textile industry then expanded. Microfibers were first publicized in the early 1990s in Sweden and saw success as a product in Europe over the course of the decade.
Microfiber fabric is often used for athletic wear, such as cycling jerseys, because the microfiber material wicks moisture (perspiration) away from the body, keeping the wearer cool and dry. Microfiber is also very elastic, making it suitable for undergarments. However, the US Marine Corps banned synthetic fabrics for wear with uniforms while deployed to combat environments in 2006, because of instances where Marines' undergarments were melting under extreme heat caused by IED (improvised explosive device) blasts, causing more damage to the skin. They released a "fit for duty" version authorized earlier that same year.
Microfiber can be used to make tough, very soft-to-the-touch materials for general clothing use, often used in skirts and jackets. Microfiber fabric can also be used for making bathrobes, jackets, swim trunks, and other clothing that can be worn for aquatic activities such as swimming. Microfiber can be made into Ultrasuede, an animal-free imitation suede leather-like product that is cheaper and easier to clean and sew than natural suede leather.
Microfiber is used to make many accessories that traditionally have been made from leather: wallets, handbags, backpacks, book covers, shoes, cell phone cases, Leather for Belt and coin purses. Microfiber fabric is lightweight, durable, and somewhat water repellent, so it makes a good substitute.
Another advantage of fabric (compared to leather) is that fabric can be coated with various finishes or can be treated with antibacterial chemicals. Fabric can also be printed with various designs, embroidered with colored thread, or heat-embossed to create interesting textures.