The Role of Chemistry in History

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Why Wool?

April 23rd, 2008 · No Comments ·

Introduction |Keratin | Why Wool? | A Sheep Market | Wool War I |References

Beginning in ancient world and continuing until the modern day, wool has achieved wide acclaim as a fiber. Wool has several chemical and physical characteristics that are responsible for its widespread popularity.


  • Disulphide bonds formed through Keratinization making Keratin fibers insoluble in water and more resistant to chemical and physical attacks.
  • Chemical cross links (both ionic and hydrophobic interactions) stabilize the protein in wet and dry conditions.
  • The Helical structure of some Keratins affects the flexibility, resilience, elasticity and wrinkle disguising abilities of wool.
  • The amorphous structure of other keratins in wool allows wool to absorb more moisture than other fibers and also enables the retention of dyes.
  • Crimping of wool allows for greater air retention. This excess of air, which is a poor conductor, is the cause of wool’s insulating abilities. Thus in cold weather, wool garments maintain body heat, allowing the wearer to remain warm.

The diagram below shows intermolecular hydrogen bonding in keratin, which results in increased strength of the protein.


Tags: Keratin