An ability to analyse raw fibres (and other materials) prior to investigation and then to be able to determine changes, if any, from treatment is essential for any R&D fibres programme. Detailed knowledge on chemical composition and ultrastructural organization of the raw materials and derived products are the basic tools for rational process improvements. For this, the research team requires access to a recommended selection of basic equipment and to a testing facility under controlled atmosphere conditions. This, in essence, forms the basis of a fibres laboratory. Without high quality analytical measurement and control, the results from the most motivated of research teams can be of limited value. Identifying what was available and what was required to augment current resources was an essential part of the field programme of the CFC/FAO project. At the CCRI in India, upgrading of the laboratory was required. The CDA in Sri Lanka did not have access to a fibres laboratory, and this severely limited their understanding of the characteristics of wet fibres and the changes that took place during drying. A limited selection of analytical equipment is essential for laboratory work. This includes:
Specialist Equipment Softness/Smoothness. Suitable equipment is required to provide for testing for yarn softness and smoothness of fabric surfaces, and for experimentation, treatments and methods. (Existing textile equipment should be adapted to coir testing).
Reflection Meter. Required for the qualification of bleaching efficiency measurement, and to determine the brightness index of bleached coir products. (Estimated cost US$30 000).
Instron Pulling Bench. Required for measuring fibre/yarn strength. (Estimated cost US$40 000).
Climatically Controlled Laboratory. This is a room in which temperature and humidity can be controlled for testing fibre and fibre product properties. A laboratory of this kind is recommended for the CCRI. (Estimated cost US$75 000, including installation costs).
Analytical Equipment. Access to more advanced chemical analytical equipment for identification of chemical components (such as FT-IR, NMR, mass spectrometry, etc.) is essential for providing a sound scientific foundation for R&D fibre programmes. Since these are costly (over US$100 000) and highly specialist equipment, strategic alliances with other advanced R&D laboratories is recommended.
MicroscopicTechnologies. Access to advanced microscopic equipment (UV microscopy/fluorescence microscopy/electron microscopy, etc.) is required for detailed morphological studies of fibres and cell walls (such as the distribution of cell wall components, porosity and surface smoothness). Since these are costly (over US$100 000) and highly specialist equipment, strategic alliances with other expert R&D laboratories is recommended.
Test Spray Equipment. For a more even distribution of dyes, access to spraying test equipment to enhance printing procedures could reduce the amount of dye needed. This should include computer-controlled equipment. More advanced (e.g. CAD) printing equipment (without the need for stencil cutting) may also be suitable for printing coir products. Equipment of this kind should be introduced and explored. (Existing equipment should be adapted to treat coir).
Biotechnical Developments. The introduction, management and control of biological processes can be further encouraged with the use of appropriate equipment. This to include the use of fermentors (on laboratory scale) with possibilities for measurement and control of gas flows, which are important for a quick and accurate assessment of enzyme activity, and for determining the efficiency of substrate conversion. (Estimated cost US$30 000).