The fat content is one of the variables to be controlled by the tanning industry with a view to obtaining leather for various commercial purposes. Ensuring the production of quality leather products frequently entails using some defatting treatment, particularly when the raw skin is rich in natural fat. The official method for determining fat in leather, IUC 4, is rather slow; also, it uses polluting reagents and involves powdering samples for Soxhlet extraction with low-polarity solvents. The combination of NIR diffuse reflectance spectroscopy as implemented with a fibre-optic probe and multivariate calibration is probably the best choice for the direct determination of fat in leather and the monitoring of leather defatting. In this work, a method for the determination of fat in leather and the control of the defatting process in an expeditious manner and with no sample treatment was developed. Defatting tests were conducted on leather specimens from lambs of various breeds and origins in order to span as wide as possible a range of variability in their properties and natural fat content. The NIR spectra used to construct the calibration matrices were recorded directly on the leather samples prior to and after defatting. Fat contents were determined by partial least-squares regression (PLSR), using the values obtained with the official method as references. Notwithstanding the complex nature of leather, the calibration models used provided good external predictions: the largest overall relative error, obtained by using a single calibration matrix for natural and defatted specimens, was 10%. The proposed method is therefore an advantageous alternative to the official method. © 2006.
- Control leather defatting
- Multivariate analysis