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Cotton to clean oil spills
Mar '17
Courtesy: Texas Tech University
Courtesy: Texas Tech University
Cotton appears to have found a new role - as oil spill cleaner. Oil spills damage both human health and environment. Scientists at the Texas Tech University have investigated cotton as oil spill cleaner. A team from the university's Institute of Environmental and Human Health found that finer raw cotton in loose form is best suited for absorbing oil.
"So far, most oil sorbents are synthetic-based, which also leads to problems in marine environments. Our goal is to enable a biodegradable and natural product to be an efficient and cost-effective oil sorbent," Seshadri Ramkumar, lead author of the study and a professor in the institute's Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory, where the research was conducted, explained.
Scientists compared the oil absorption characteristics of finer and coarser cotton in loose, needle-punched nonwoven and hydroentangled nonwoven forms. Finer cotton in loose forms was found to be superior for oil absorbency. The research shows the importance of cotton micronaire, a measure based on cotton's air permeability which indicates its   fineness and maturity, for oleophilic applications such as spill remediation. 
The research also involved two high school students besides scientists from the Texas Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory and the Southern Regional Research Center of the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in New Orleans, where samples were prepared. 
According to Ramkumar, who is also the creator of FiberTectTM, a nonwoven decontamination wipe capable of cleaning toxic chemical agents, the goal is to find industrial as well as new and value-added technical applications for cotton. He has been instrumental in introducing cotton as technical textile. 
"It is vital that we continue to explore new markets for cotton, and Dr Ramkumar's research has contributed greatly to the advancement of cotton, especially in the nonwovens sector," said Steve Verett, executive vice president of Plains Cotton Growers, which supports research in the Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory. 
Ramkumar said it was important to work with the young generation from the producer community. 
"One of the strengths of cotton research at Texas Tech is the connection with the local economic engine that cotton provides. Not only do researchers address local challenges and opportunities, but some such as Dr Ramkumar take this connection to the next level by engaging local students and communities in the research," said Kater Hake, vice president of agricultural research at Cotton Incorporated, which funded the research. (SV)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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