The X-ray diffraction patterns from fibrous polymers are generally characterized by a small number of relatively broad overlapping peaks often overlaid with a diffuse halo. Single fibres give the same pattern as a parallel bundle of fibres, so that the pattern is equivalent to the rotation pattern of a single crystal. Despite the inherent difficulty of insufficient well-defined reflections, all commercially useful fibres have been indexed, starting with cellulose, through nylon 66 and polyester, to the more recent fibres, such as Nomex and Kevlar. Only the structural complexities of the natural fibres of keratin (wool and hair) remain to be fully determined.
Many sophisticated computations have been carried out to refine unit-cell constants; unfortunately, much of this work is of doubtful value to those interested in fibre characterisation. Fibres are semicrystalline materials and their molecules are insufficiently well ordered for precision calculations of atomic positions. Indeed, there can be significant error involved in evaluating unit-cell constants from overlapping peaks, unless precise profile resolution is carried out.