Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Basic Functional Application for Natural Fibers and Types

Written By

Ramratan Guru, Anupam Kumar and Rohit Kumar

Submitted: 29 October 2021 Reviewed: 02 February 2022 Published: 10 March 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.102998

From the Edited Volume

Natural Fiber

Edited by Han-Yong Jeon

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Natural fiber has a more long history and these are very important in a wide range of applications in the textile sector. Basically, natural fibers have biopolymers and natural fibers are basically made from either plant or animal-sourced. The plant-based natural fibers are major constituent of cellulose content and animal-based natural fibers are comprised of proteins. Nowadays, more used around the world for the plant-based natural fibers to bioplastics, biocomposites materials in automotive industries. These make product are low cost, low density, low manufacturing energy consumption, and more biodegradable. The ever-growing environmental, ecological, and economical concerns lead to increased acceptance of natural fibers in every area of conventional synthetic material application. This is due to biodegradability, nontoxicity, combustibility, easy availability, nonabrasiveness, and good specific strength. The present study focuses on the functional application aspect of natural fibers, basically an identification of fiber, classification and application of fibers process parameters.


  • natural fibers
  • classification and application of fibers process parameters

1. Introduction

Basically fiber is defined as a unit of substance characterized by flexibility, fineness, length, and thickness. In the order of textile, the fiber basically used have should be sufficiently high-temperature stability, strength, elasticity, and moisture performance. Generally, textile fibers are basically of two categories: natural sources and man-made fibers. They are fibers from natural sources like plants and animals etc. and do not require fiber formation, are categorized as natural fibers. The natural fibers are basically of two categories like cellulose fiber such as flex, hemp, cotton, mineral fiber, and another classes protein fibers are such as silk and wool [1, 2].

Man-made filaments are filaments in which either the introductory chemical units have been formed by chemical conflation followed by fiber conformation or the polymers from natural sources have been dissolved and regenerated after passage through a spinneret to form filaments. Those filaments made by chemical conflation are frequently called synthetic filaments, while filaments regenerated from natural polymer sources are called regenerated filaments or natural polymer filaments [3]. In other words, all synthetic filaments and regenerated filaments are man-made filaments, since man is involved in the factual fiber conformation process [4, 5]. In discrepancy, filaments from natural sources are handed by nature in ready-made form. Basically, man-made fibers contain polyesters, acrylics, polyamides (nylon), vinyls, elastomeric fibers, polyolefins, while the regenerated fibers include rayon, cellulose acetates, the regenerated proteins, glass, and rubber fibers. Basically, this article has the main purpose of all types of textile fibers, gives brief knowledge with specification facts.


2. Basic properties of a textile fiber

In this session, we have described the properties of all kind of fibers, which are commonly viewed as important aspects.

2.1 Fineness

The fineness is very important part of each fiber. The thickness of fiber can be known from its width, diameter, and sectional area. But there are very few fibers that have a completely round sectional area. So it is difficult to get the perfect answer. Therefore, there is a number that shows the ratio of weight against a fixed length or vice versa, the ratio of length against a fixed weight. For example, fineness is indicated by Denier, Tex, or yarn count. The excellence of fiber quality is evaluated from its fineness.

2.2 Length/diameter

Length is an important characteristic that defines the usefulness of a textile fiber. The length should also be many times its diameter. In general, this would mean that when one talks of fiber length in terms of a few centimeters it has to be a few microns of fiber diameter. The staple length of spinnable fibers is generally not less than 18 mm. Fibers below 5 mm are just not integrated into the yarn. In the case of filament fiber this ratio would be very large and perhaps irrelevant. The cut staple length depends on the spinning system to be used and the fiber it is blended with in case of blends [6].

2.3 Strength

It is essential that the fabric should be durable enough. For durability, the fabric must be strong enough. The strength of the fabric is more influenced by the strength of the fiber present in the cloth. Basically it indicated strength to resistance constant by fibers, yarns form, and cloths to breakdown when energy is applied to them. The basically is strength parameters like bending, tensile and bursting, etc. according to the direction and application power.

2.4 Elasticity

Basically, elasticity performance depends on capability of the garments to the material to area imaginative nature after being deformed by the use of strength. Elasticity or elastic recovery is generally influenced by the extent of stretch, during time which material is kept in its stretched condition, and the time to recover.

2.5 Uniformity

It is essential that there should be limited variations in length and diameter between the fibers to fiber. In other words the fiber should be more uniform which will ensure uniformity in the yarn as well as in the fabric.

2.6 Spinnability

It indicated that the individual fibers must be capable of being spun into a yarn and then fabric with sufficient strength. For better spinnability the fiber must have better cohesiveness i.e., they must hold together to prevent slippage. The spinnability is normally used for the man-made fiber-developed procedure.

2.7 Hygroscopic property

If a fiber is left in the atmosphere, it has the properties of absorbing moisture automatically. The limit of this absorption differs according to the kind of fiber. It differs even in the same fibers according to temperature and relative humidity. Generally, the volume of moisture absorption increases along with the increase of humidity. However, the increment ratio is not always in direct proportion with the increase in humidity.

2.8 Thermal conductivity

Fibers are mostly used in raw material for clothing and the purpose of clothing is to decorate. However, the main purpose is to prevent from cold or heat (specially to prevent from clod). The amount of thermal conductivity of fibers is one of the important properties.

2.9 Resistance to chemical agents

The reaction of fibers to chemicals varies a lot according to their types. But generally, nature fibers of vegetable origin are weak in acids and strong in alkalis. Other natural fibers of animal origin are strong in acids and weak in alkalis. The man-made fiber, fibers of the cellulose series are weak in both acid and alkali, whereas synthetic fiber is stable to a certain extent in acid also and alkali also.


3. Classification of textile fibers

All the textile fiber classification is mention in below Table 1.

3.1 Natural fiber

Natural fibers are those, which are obtained from plants, animals, or minerals.

3.1.1 Vegetable fiber

Among vegetable fibers, the kind of fiber differs according to the part of the tree/shrub, from which it is taken.

For example, collections of fiber growing on the seeds like raw cotton, Kapok, etc. collection of grown as the skin of the plant stem (bast) like flax, ramie, hemp, jute, etc. the collection of fiber from fruit shells like coir fiber (coconut fiber). The out of this most important one is raw cotton and next to it are flax, jute, Manila hemp, and ramie [7, 8].

3.1.2 Cotton fiber

Raw cotton is being used as a material for clothing for a long and its origin can be traced to 2200 BC. The cotton hair during its growth is almost cylindrical and contains a central canal called is the lumen. When remove from the seed, however the cell collapse into a flat ribbon which forms an irregular spiral band under the influence of light and air.

The cotton fibers are having different lengths. These depend upon the types of soil, weather condition, duration of harvesting the crops, etc. the length of cotton fibers are expressed in the terms of staple length. Very good fibers measure a length of 2 inches. The length of fiber also depends on the fineness of the fibers, longer the fiber finer will be the diameter. The length of cotton fiber varies from 1200 to 1300 times its width.

Strength and Elasticity: Cotton is a strong fiber among the natural fibers; the cotton gets additional strength in wet conditions. In addition to strength, cotton possesses good elasticity. Tenacity Dry 2.1–6.3 gpd and Wet 110–130% Dry.

Color: Usually cotton fibers are creamy white in color. Most of Egyptian cotton has a yellowish-brown color.

Luster: Among the important natural fibers cotton has the lowest luster which however can be improved by mercerization. To reduce the luster, delustering agents are used.

Effect of temperate: Cotton fibers ignite easily and burn to produce a smell that is obtained by burning paper or wood.

Exposure to heat: There is no visible change until a temperature of 120°C is reached. At this temperature, cotton becomes yellowish after 5 hours of exposure but shows little change in strength. At 140°C the color changes to brown and develops a serious loss of strength. Again, when heated for a few hours at 240°C, it loses its complete strength.

Moisture relation: The percentage of moisture in the fiber influences the spinning quality of fiber. Cotton cannot be spun satisfactorily in a dry atmosphere. Cotton contains 7–8.5% of moisture regain. Fabrics made from these fibers get soiled and crushed easily, but they can be washed and ironed without causing damage.

Effect of light: Cotton fibers are affected by ordinary light and more particularly by ultraviolet rays and they lose their strength to some extent. Cotton has the least resistance to exposure to sunlight.

Action of Acid: Cotton fibers are degraded by strong acids like HCl, H2SO4, and HNO3. Dilute solutions of these acids if washed immediately to no harm, organic acids like acetic acid do not harm cotton fibers.

Action of Alkalis: Dilute alkalis at room temperature do not injure cotton. If cotton is boiled in a dilute solution of an alkali-like caustic soda in the presence of air, it turns yellow and loses its strength.

Dyeability: Cotton can easily be dyed using direct, sulfur, naphthol, vats, reactive and similar types of dyes.

Application for cotton fibers: It is used in summer wear, towelings, furnishings, medical textiles, canvas, sewing threads, dress material jeans and in sewing thread, etc.

3.1.3 Kapok fiber

Kapok is a silky fiber obtained from the pod of kapok tree. The botanical name is Ceiba pentranda of the family Boombacaceae. This tree is grown principally in Java, Africa, Netherlands, and South East Asia, where the soil and hot climate conditions are especially suited for its growth. The fibers are contained in the outer shell, loosely surrounding the seeds and entirely free from the cell. The Kapok fiber has a hollow structure with an external radius of around 8.25 (±4) mm, internal diameter around 7.25 (±4) mm, and length around 25 (±5) mm. Combined with the specific material density of 1.3 g/cm3.

Application: Kapok fibers are moisture-resistant, resilient, soft, and brittle. This fiber is not suitable for spinning but it is very much suitable for stuffing. So, this fiber is mostly used in jackets, sleeping bags, insulating materials, and upholstery.

3.2 Bast fiber

Basically are the bast fiber category in Jute, Flex, Hemp, Ramie, etc. [9].

3.2.1 Jute fiber

Jute fiber is moderately strong, lustrous & yellowish-brown in color. It tends to disintegrate in water and has poor elasticity. However, this rigidity becomes virtuous. It is our best bagging material. Jute is difficult to bleach and it cannot be made pure white. It is the most important among all bast fibers. It is 2rd only to cotton in terms of crop polymer. It is easy to be spun but deteriorates when exposed to moisture. It can be converted wool-like fiber by treatment with strong caustic soda. It is highly hygroscopic with moisture regain of 13.75% and moisture content of 12% and the staple length of the fiber varies between 60 and 120 inches. Its color varies from yellow to brown. Generally, fiber is coarser and it is harsh. It is attacked by bacteria when damp. Jute is mixed with wool. Jute cloth is used for covering the cattle during winter because of its thermal insulation properties. It can be used for backing cloth for carpets and in the making of gunny bags, ropes, etc. it can be substituted for plywood also [10, 11].

Application: Jute is used for hessian sacking, backing for rugs, webbing, carpets, wall coverings, thread, canvas, matting, hammocks & beltings.

3.2.2 Flex fiber

Flax is also called as linen and many times it is called as linen, when it is turned into yarn or fabric. This is known very well around the world as the oldest of all the cultivated fiber raw materials. Flax is the bast fiber found in the stem of the plant “Linium usitatissium”. The plant is cultivated in cold and humid conditions. So, the plantation is centered in cold countries. The major source of supply of flax is from the old U.S.S.R. the other countries which have flax growing areas are North Ireland, Egypt, Japan, Brazil, France, U.S.A., Australia, Canada, etc. Like jute, flax is an annual plant. The plant from which the fiber extracts grows in moist and cold conditions. The plant grows up to 160 to 170 cm in height and 1.5 cm in diameter. The tree is matured by changing its color from green to yellow. The flax fiber color is yellowish to gray, length 18 to 30 inches, elongation at a break of 2.7 to 3.5%, and moisture regain 10 to 12% [12].

Application: The flax fibers are used in household clothing fabrics, lace, sheetings, canvas, threads, papermaking, and industrial application like a fire house.

3.2.3 Hemp fiber

Basically hemp fiber is bast fiber category and similar harvesting process like for the flex fiber. These fibers are thick as compared to flax and darker color, tough to bleach process. This fiber is strong and more durable. The strands of the hemp fiber, approximate length of 6 to 8 feet and fiber length of 1.2 to 2.5 cm. The hemp fiber cross-section is polygonal shape and fiber is very stiff and surrounds considerable lignin. They are hemp fiber to produce for the coarse count cloths like sack material, rope, canvas, etc. Generally, hemp fiber is color yellowish to deep brown and moisture regains 12%. The hemp fiber is very poor elasticity recovery performance [13].

Effect of acid: Hemp is attacked by hot dilute acid or cold concentration acids which it breaks down.

Effect of alkalis: Hemp fiber has excellent resistance to alkalis.

Effect of organic solvent: It does not affect by the organic solvents.

Application: The coarse hemp fibers to produced yarn are used in woven into cordage, rope, sacking and heavy duties tarpaulins and fine hemp fibers are used for hats, shawls, rugs, towels.

3.2.4 Ramie fiber

The ramie fiber is also bast fiber categories and generally to known this fiber as a china grass. All produced fiber processes are similar to hemp fiber. The ramie fiber is a white color with more luster and good strength. This fiber is basically used for industrial application and furnishing where rough, irregular clothes are desired. The plant grows to a height of 1 to 3 meters with a diameter of approximately 8 to 20 mm thick. The plant requires a tropical climate, where the winter temperature should be above freezing. This plant is also grown in India Australia, America, Japan, Brazil, etc. Ramie is a perennial fiber, with a yield from two to five crops of fiber per year, which depends upon the soil and climate. Ramie is ready for harvesting when the lower part of the stalk turns light yellowish-brown and the lower leaves matured by turning yellow and detachable. Harvesting is done by cutting the stalks. The physical properties of Ramie fiber exhibited high tenacity, high luster, and brightness. It has resistance to heat, light, acid, and alkali, etc. The ramie fiber is moisture regain used 12% [14, 15].

Application: In general, the fiber is strong, stiff with silky luster. The ramie fiber is used for sailcloth, ropes, fishnets, paper making, and upholstery fabric.

3.3 Animals fibers

They basically are used for animal fiber like wool and silk.

3.3.1 Wool fiber

Animal hairs are obviously natural clothing material; they protect the body from wind and rain and also soften the extremes of temperature in various climates. A typical hair contains three parts the cuticular layers or epidermis, the fiber layer or cortex, and the pith or medulla. The wool is the haircut and collected from the sheep. Therefore before elaborating about the sheep wool, it is necessary to elaborate a little about the sheep. In the wool market, they are broadly classified into merino variety and crossbred variety. Sometimes only are used for comeback variety [16]. Specifications for wool fiber

Strength: As wool is the weakest of the natural textile fibers some wool fabrics may be made more durable by the use of selected grades of recycled wool, although durability is gained at the expense of texture and resiliency, and tenacity dry 1 to 1.7 gpd and Wet 76 to 97% of dry.

Elasticity: One might look upon wool’s elasticity as compensation for its relative weakness depending upon the quality of wool. The fiber may be stretched from 25 to 30% of its natural length before breaking. This characteristic reduces the danger of tearing under tension and contributes to free body movements to preserve this natural elasticity. Woolen garments should be hung properly after wearing and allowed to relax sufficiently to regain their shape elongation by 25 to 30%.

Resiliency: Because wool fiber has a high degree of resiliency, wool fabric wrinkles less than some others, wrinkles disappear when the garment of fabric is steamed. Good wool is very soft and resilient, poor wool is harsh.

Drapability: Wool’s excellent draping quality is aided by its pliability, elasticity, and resiliency. Wool has superior drapability than many of synthetic fibers.

Absorbency: Primarily wool tends to be water repellent. One can notice that precipitations of water on the surface of wool fibers are freely soft off. However, once the moisture seeps through the scales of the fibers, moisture is absorbed. The fibers have a degree of capillarity that will readily absorb about 20% of its weight of moisture without feeling damp. Moisture regains 16%, moisture content 13.8%.

Cleanliness & washability: Dirt tends to adhere to wool fabric. Unless thoroughly cleaned, wool retains odors, consequently, wool laundering is required.

Reaction to bleaches: The household bleached that contain sodium hypochlorite or other chlorine compounds are harmful to wool. However, bleach-containing hydrogen peroxide or sodium perborate may be used.

Application: Wools resilience bulk & ease in handling makes it the most appropriate for knitting goods. Both Woolen & worsted can be used in men’s and women’s suiting’s, overcoats, sweaters, upholstery fabrics, and blankets.

3.3.2 Silk fiber

Silk originated from the silkworm which is cultivated in a warm shiny climate and usually employs cheap labor. The silk fabrics comprise the fabrics woven with raw silk and degummed after weaving and the fabrics woven by using the degummed silk yarn. They generally are used raw silk material to make woven cloth in white color. They are dyed on fabric surface plain color or according to consumer demand printed used. There is also a method of degumming and dyeing in which the dye is put into the degumming tank and dyeing is carried out instantaneously with scouring [17, 18].

Strength: Silk is a natural fiber. The continuous length of the filaments in thrown yarns provides a factor of strength above what is possible with short natural fibers. The smoothness of the silk filaments yarns has the inherent strength of silk along with its fine diameter for durable fabrics. The strength of silk fabric is also affected by its construction & its finish.

Tenacity dry 2.8 to 5.2 gpd, tenacity wet 75 to 95% of dry.

Resiliency: Silk fabrics retain their shape and resist wrinkling rather well. This is particularly true of the fabrics made from pure silk and from wild silk.

Absorbency: The good absorptive property of silk also contributes to its comfort in a normal atmosphere. Silk fiber can generally absorb about 11% of its weight of moisture, but the range varies from 10% to as such as 30%.

Cleanliness and washability: Silk is a hygienic material because of its smooth surface does not attract dirt, when dirt does gather; it is given up readily by washing or dry cleaning. Care should be exercised in laundering silk that always use a mild soap and strong agitation in the washing machine must be avoided as silk weakens slightly when wet.

Reaction to bleach: Strong bleaches containing sodium hypochlorite will deteriorate silk. A mild beach of hydrogen peroxide or sodium carbonate may be used with normal caution.

Shrinkage: Because of the straightness of the filament, smooth-surfaced silk fabrics have only a normal shrinkage which is easily restored by ironing.

Effect of light: Continuous exposure to light weakens silk faster than either cotton or wool. Raw silk is more resistant to light than degummed silk and weighted silk has the least light resistance.

Affinity for dyes: Generally is silk very good affinity for dyes application. It readily absorbs acid and direct dyes.

Application: Silk is famous for its lightness, luster, and beauty. It has a wide variety of uses in apparel and upholstery fabrics in terms of satin, crepe, printed crepe, voile, chiffon, damask, muslin, velvet, brocade (Tables 2 and 3).

Table 1.

Classification natural fibre.

S. No.Type of fiberFiber moisture regain (%)Fiber density (g/cm3)
1.Cotton7.5 to 81.52
2.KapokAbove 71.30
3.Jute12 to 13.51.52
4.Flax10 to 121.52
6.Ramie10 to 121.50 to 1.55
8.Coconut8 to 121.18
11.Wool12 to 141.31

Table 2.

Natural fiber moisture regains and density specification.

S. No.Type of fiberFiber moisture regain (%)Fiber density (g/cm3)
6.Viscose11 to 131.46 to 1.54
7.Acrylic1.5 to 21.17

Table 3.

Man-made fiber moisture regains and density specification.

3.4 The basic identification of fiber

Generally, fiber identification is of three types microscopy view, burning test, and solubility test [19, 20, 21].

3.4.1 Microscopy view

The textile fibers, particularly the natural ones, have typical longitudinal and cross-sectional shapes and therefore can be identified by viewing them under the optical microscope. This technique cannot be used very successfully in the case of man-made fibers, except for a few because their cross-sections can be modified during production. Typical cross-sectional and longitudinal shapes of some of the fibers are given in the following Tables 4 and 5.

S. No.FiberLongitudinal appearanceCross-sectional shape
1.CottonRibbon like Convolutions (twist) that often change directionCollapsed, bean-shaped, Irregular size, lumen visible
2.FlexPresence of cross marking and nodes. Pointed tips and smooth outline is presentFiber bundle, fiber exhibit polygonal structure with sharp angles and small central lumen.
3.JutePoorly defined nodes fiber present in bundles observation spiral elements with cross markings.Fiber bundles with irregular outline. Fiber exhibit polygonal structure with sharp angles, outline regular in shape with thick circular.
4.HempFiber bundle, cross markings, and nodes present. Smooth and pointed tipsPolygonal with sharply defined angles with small central lumen.
5.RamieBroad ribbon like fibers and longitudinal striations, rounded tips.Flattened structure, radical fissures, elongated lumen, and thick walls.
6.Gummed SilkIrregular elliptical RibbonsTriangular with rounded corners in pairs.
7.Degummed silkSingle, smooth, nearly structure lessTriangular cross-section with rounded corners.
8.Tussar SilkFlat irregular ribbonsVery elongated triangles normally separate, with rounded corners.
9.WoolRough surface scales, medulla or central fiber or coreRound or nearly round, medulla may appear shaped

Table 4.

Microscopic appearances of the natural fibers.

S. No.FiberLongitudinal appearanceCross-sectional shape
1.Polyester, Nylon and PolypropyleneRod like smooth profileRegular, circular
2.Acetate, TriacetateDistinct lengthwise striationsIrregular, serrated
3.AcrylicBroad, indistinct lengthwise striationsIrregular, dog bone shape
4.ViscoseDistinct lengthwise striationsIrregular, serrated

Table 5.

Microscopic appearances of the man-made fibers.

3.4.2 Burning test

This test is basically identification for fiber smell, bead, and burning behavior performance (Table 6).

S.No.FiberInflameBehavior outside the flameSmellResidue
1.Cotton, Jute, Flex and ViscoseBurns quicklyContinues to burnBurning like paperLight gray ash
2.WoolBurn slowlySelf-extinguishingBurning like hairCrushable black bead
3.SilkBurn slowlySelf-extinguishingBurning like hairCrushable black bead
4.PolyesterMelts. Burns slowlyBurns, drips may extinguish because of drippingChemical smell. Slightly sweet, chemical odor.Hard tough light colored bead
5.NylonMelts. Burns slowlyBurns, drips may extinguish because of drippingBurning beans likeHard tough light colored bead
6.AcetateBurn quicklyContinue to burn noncrushableAcid (hot vinegar)Hard black bead
7.AcrylicBurn rapidlyContinue to burnAcid likeIrregular, hard black bead
8.PolypropyleneBurn rapidlyBurns continuouslyBurning like plasticHard tough tan bead

Table 6.

Burning behavior common fibers.

3.4.3 Solubility test

The solubility of a fiber in the specific chemical component is frequently means of fiber identification (Table 7).

S. No.FiberSolubility
1.Cotton75% H2So4 at room temperature
2.WoolSoluble in 5% NaoH at room temperature, soluble in 0.25% sodium hypochlorite solution
3.SilkSoluble in 5% NaoH (Hot)
4.NylonSoluble in formic acid 85% and M-Cresol
5.PolyesterDissolves in ortho chlorophenol at room temperature, 95°C meta cresol soluble. Concentration 75% H2So4 at room temperature soluble polyester,
6.ViscoseDissolves in sodium zincate solution, 59% Sulfuric acid dissolves
7.AcrylicDissolves in DMF, DMSO, Ammonium thiocyanate (70% solution at boil)
8.PolypropyleneDissolves in boiling Xylol, floats on water, Meta Xylene (at Boil)
9.AcetateCold acetone, glacial acetic acid at 25 °C
10.TriacetateSolution in chloroform and methylene dichloride

Table 7.

Identification of fibers through solubility tests.


4. Conclusion

In present study has given an overview concept of basically different types of textile fibers, classification fiber, and fiber identification performance knowledge. According to all textile fibers important characteristics view in the following conclusion are drawn:

  • The overall appearance and luster of a textile can be related to the shape and light-absorbing and scattering characteristics of the individual fiber within the structure.

  • They are generally man-made and natural source, both fibers are important aspects got in comfort properties like fiber fineness, strength, length, and moisture regain, etc.

  • A number of fiber end-use properties in textile constructions relate to the esthetic, tactile, and comfort characteristics of the fiber.

  • Textile fibers is a vast and challenging field in which required functionality can be designed by a suitable choice of raw material, fabric structure, cloths design, and finishes.

  • Due to the suitable properties of fibers such as cotton, hemp, polyester, elastane, and blends of fibers and filaments, their use in comfort clothing is of paramount importance.

  • Protection and safety are the important design aspects of garments a fabric, which provides comfort to the wearer by protecting it from adverse weather conditions and also enhances the performance of the selection of fiber.


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Written By

Ramratan Guru, Anupam Kumar and Rohit Kumar

Submitted: 29 October 2021 Reviewed: 02 February 2022 Published: 10 March 2022