Retrospective: Key Topics of the International Cotton Conference Bremen 2021
Scientists worldwide are conducting research into the further advancement and application of cotton. They develop innovative textile as well as technical materials and products based on the biodegradable natural fibre.
Cotton with Exceptional Biological Properties
Dr Filipe Natalio, Principal Investigator, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, spoke on the topic of Material Farming: Growing Cotton with Unique Functions.
The concept underlying material farming is to merge materials science with biological systems. Material farming refers to the customization of natural materials to synthesize complex biological materials while overcoming the shortcomings of chemistry and biotechnology. Fibre functionality can be changed through chemistry, but coatings wear out with time. As an alternative, we can use biology to integrate functionality into the fibre.
Cotton fibres are formed by connecting glucose building blocks with molecular precision to form cellulose. Dr Natalio alters the chemical synthesis of glucose to combine the building blocks differently during 20 days in a medium as the fibre cells develop from cotton ovules.
Using this technique, Dr Natalio has been able to produce cotton fibres that are fluorescent and fibres that are magnetic. These preliminary results prove the concept that modified fibres can be produced with properties that do not degrade with wear or washing. Potential applications include fibres that are inherently colored, or hydrophobic, self-actuating textiles, and a library of cotton molecules can be created for traceability. The vision is to create cotton fibres with a wide range of functionality to further sustainability.
Dr Natalio indicated that commercial trials could be produced within two years. The resulting fibres are biodegradable.
Picture: Fluorescent Cotton Fibres – F. Natalio, Univ. Halle-Wittenberg
Bioplastics from Cotton
Dr Noureddine Abidi, Professor and Director, Fibre and Biopolymer Research Institute, Texas Tech University, USA, spoke about a process for converting cotton cellulose into a bioplastic film. He noted that cotton fibres are more than 90 percent cellulose.
Dr Abidi said that strong intermolecular and intramolecular hydrogen bonding within the glucose molecules that form cellulose result in excellent inherent mechanical properties in cotton fibres.
The process of producing plastic films starts with scoured and bleached low-micronaire cotton. The cotton is first dissolved in a solution at 50 degrees Celsius and then held at 105 degrees for 12 hours to form a cellulose gel. The gel can be converted into a hydrogel film which is plasticized with glycerol to impart elasticity and hot pressed into a dry film which is elastic and flexible. Dr Abidi described the performance characteristics of the resulting bioplastic film, including elasticity, elongation, hydrophobic and thermal properties.
The potential applications for the new film are as substitutes for plastic packaging and single-use bags.
Water-Repellent Fabrics, Flame-Retardant Cotton Fleeces, Therapeutic Clothing
During the session, several other speakers also presented research projects or innovative products and materials.
Daniel Odermatt, Marketing Manager Ventil, Stotz Fabrics, Switzerland gave a presentation on the topic of Innovative Cotton Fabrics for Functional Apparel. Ventil fabric is waterproof, water repellent and wind proof, but breathable. Jackets and coats are the biggest market for their fabric.
Tim Natzschka, R&D Project Manager, Norafin Industries (Germany) GmbH, Germany, gave a presentation on Cotton as Raw Material for Special Technical Application. He explained that Norafin Industries creates non-woven products using carded fibres with a special hydo-entanglement process.
Agnieszka Cichocka & Dr Iwona Frydrych, Lodz University of Technology, Poland, spoke on the topic of 3D Design of Cotton/Flax Clothing Aiding the Treatment of Skin Diseases. The objective of the study was to develop functional, comfortable, attractive natural-fibre clothing containing microcapsules with active herbal extracts to promote the healing of skin disease.