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Gauze is popularly thought of as a thin, translucent fabric with a loose open weave. Technically "gauze" is a weave structure in which the warp yarns are arranged in pairs and are crossed before and after each weft yarn keeping the weft firmly in place. This weave structure is used to add stability to fabric, which is important when using fine yarns loosely spaced. However, this weave structure can be used with any weight of yarn, and can be seen in some rustic textiles made from coarse hand-spun plant fiber yarns.
Gauze was traditionally woven in Palestine and the English word is said to derive from the place name for Gaza (Arabic: غزة ghazza), a center of weaving in the region. Despite a prohibition on trade with non-Christians from religious authorities in medieval Europe, a fine type of silk known as gazzatum was imported from Gaza as early as the 13th century. Though members of religious orders in Europe were forbidden to wear it, the fabric won a place for itself and emerged into modern life as gauze.
According to the French government's online etymology dictionary, the English form of the word derived from the French gaze, whose ultimate origin is uncertain, but is often attributed to the Arabic and Persian word qazz meaning "raw silk", which itself derived from the name of Gaza. The same source says the existence of "an ancient textile industry in Gaza is not assured," and it is not known how the word entered into widespread use in European languages, with examples of first usages cited being the medieval Latin forms garza in Bologna in 1250 and gazzatum in Budapest in 1279.
Gauze was originally made of silk and was used for clothing. It is now used for many different things, including gauze sponges for medical purposes. When used as a medical dressing, gauze is generally made of cotton. It is especially useful for dressing wounds where other fabrics might stick to the burn or laceration. Many modern medical gauzes are covered with a plastic porous film such as Telfa or a polyblend which prevents direct contact and further minimizes wound adhesion. Also, it can be impregnated with a thick, creamy mixture of zinc oxide and calamine to promote healing, as in Unna's boot.
Modern gauze is also made of synthetic fibers, especially when used in clothing. It can also be made of metal, such as a wire gauze placed on top of a Bunsen burner, used in a safety lamp or spark arrestor, or used as a fence.
There are two types of wire gauze used in chemistry: a normally woven wire gauze, and one with a white circle imprinted on it. The latter has a ceramic composite intended to aid in the dispersal in heat. The normal set-up is a ring stand which a support ring attached to it. The wire gauze is centered on the ring stand as to allow the open flame to be in contact with it to a certain extent, depending on the desired heat. In the context of laboratory experimentation, the combination of the wire gauze plus the added ceramic composite greatly aids in the even dispersal of heat. This means that an object placed over this type of wire gauze will receive a more uniform heat from a Bunsen burner than the naked flame of it. This property is specially important in various chemical processes where precise, even heat dispersal is sought after, as a consistent heat is crucial for the successful maintenance of the chemical process intended. Because of this desired heat dispersal ability, wire gauze can also be used as a cooling surface for beakers, Erlenmeyers flasks or other vessels without damaging the supporting surface (workbench, tabletop, etc.).
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