Fibertect-CS swab gets international attention
High Plains cotton is raising eyebrows in the Middle East, according to researchers at Texas Tech University.
Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar, with Texas Tech's Institute of Environmental and Human Health recently received a request from Bahrain for a sample of the nonwoven cotton swab using technology from his laboratory at Reese Center for evaluation.
The swab is marketed under the name Fibertect-CS and is manufactured by Hobbs Bonded Fibers in Waco.
Larry Hobbs, vice president of manufacturing in the family-owned company, confirmed that request and said he also has been contacted by The United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The Fibertect-CS swab, in its basic form, is an activated carbon core sandwiched between two layers of nonwoven cotton. Ramkumar and his research team at Tech initially developed it for military applications as a chemical wipe. That combination seemed to make it ideal for use in possible chemical warfare situations where soldiers might not only need to be able to protect themselves with Hazmat suits, but clean their sensitive equipment, as well.
Ramkumar explained that the beauty of the product, from a local ag economy standpoint, is that the cotton used in the nonwoven layers is low-grade. In fact, on Thursday his lab was testing 3.1 micronaire cotton for use in the swab. That provides a potential market for cotton that otherwise must be sold at an extreme discount.
Shawn Wade, of Plains Cotton Growers in Lubbock, said that is critical for the region because every year conditions in some part of the High Plains and South Plains will result in some low-grade cotton.
Fibertect was evaluated a few years ago in a test by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of a request by a blue-ribbon congressional panel to test different materials against the threat of terrorist use of chemical or biological weapons.
Hobbs said in those tests, Fibertect outperformed the 29 materials it was tested against.
"So the science is well accepted," he said.
That is good news, because in any evaluation that involves life-and- death applications, Hobbs continued, testing is very rigorous and Fibertect must outperform whatever it is being asked to replace.
The manufacturer further explained that the sandwiching layers on either side of the carbon are replaceable, depending on what the end use is.
For example, he said, if the outer layer needs to be fire retardant it can be, while the inner layer remains cotton.
One of the emerging applications for Fibertect, he said, is as a protectant face mask. He pointed out that in recent efforts to clean up the oil spill along the Gulf Coast, workers had to wear 10-pound respirators that were very uncomfortable in high temperatures and high humidity.
His company has been working on disposable surgical-style masks that could provide a good alternative.
In the meantime, Ramkumar said the interest of foreign governments and companies is good news for local cotton producers.
Anything that gives them another market is a good thing, he said.
Texas Tech University