Textile artifacts form a vital part of our cultural heritage. In order to determine appropriate methods of conservation, storage, and display, it is important to understand the current physical state of an artifact, as effected by the microstructure of the component fibers. The semicrystalline nature of the constituent polymer aggregates, the degree of crystallinity, and the crystallite orientation have a significant influence on mechanical properties. The value of polarized Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy in probing these aspects of cellulosic fibers has been assessed. A variety of representative fibers (both natural plant fibers and regenerated materials) were examined by polarized attenuated total reflection spectroscopy (Pol-ATR) and polarized infrared microspectroscopy (Pol-μIR); the former is a surface sampling technique and the latter is a transmission technique. The introduction of a polarizer into the system allows the alignment as well as the nature of bonds to be determined, and thus the presence and extent of crystallinity or longrange ordering can be investigated. Using the data from the Pol-ATR experiments, it was found to be possible to derive the principle alignment of the cellulose polymer with respect to the fiber axis, along with an indication of the total cellulose crystallinity of the material, as measured by a crystallinity parameter, <i>χ</i>. The Pol-μIR spectra, on the other hand, yielded more limited information, particularly when considering plant fibers with more complex microstructures.

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