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Changes to Collagen Structure during Leather Processing

Sizeland, Katie H., Edmonds, Richard L., Basil-Jones, Melissa M., Kirby, Nigel, Hawley, Adrian, Mudie, Stephen, Haverkamp, Richard G.
Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 2015 v.63 no.9 pp. 2499-2505
X-radiation, collagen, leather, physical properties, processing stages, sheep, water content
As hides and skins are processed to produce leather, chemical and physical changes take place that affect the strength and other physical properties of the material. The structural basis of these changes at the level of the collagen fibrils is not fully understood and forms the basis of this investigation. Synchrotron-based small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) is used to quantify fibril orientation and D-spacing through eight stages of processing from fresh green ovine skins to staked dry crust leather. Both the D-spacing and fibril orientation change with processing. The changes in thickness of the leather during processing affect the fibril orientation index (OI) and account for much of the OI differences between process stages. After thickness is accounted for, the main difference in OI is due to the hydration state of the material, with dry materials being less oriented than wet. Similarly significant differences in D-spacing are found at different process stages. These are due also to the moisture content, with dry samples having a smaller D-spacing. This understanding is useful for relating structural changes that occur during different stages of processing to the development of the final physical characteristics of leather.