Micro-Images of Cotton Are to Dye
For By Jill
June 3, 1997
When researchers wanted to find new ways to enhance cotton
quality, they found them by looking at cotton fiber in a totally new
light--under a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
Cotton magnified 65, 125 and as many as 1,400 times by the SEM
allows researchers with USDAs Agricultural Research Service to see
incredibly subtle changes in fabric and cotton fiber. This lets them make
recommendations that lead to higher quality--both in the cotton bolls harvested
from the growers field and the fabric spun at the mill.
Small flaws in dyeing, for example, can carry a hefty price tag:
Imperfections cost the textile industry $200 million annually. Some flaws occur
when small tangles of undyeable fiber make their way into a mill. A yard of
royal blue fabric can be ruined by weaving this undyeable cotton into cloth. It
causes an outbreak of white spots where the dye didnt take. The fabric
must be sold at a loss.
ARS textile researchers used SEM technology to prove these fabric
flaws were the result of immature fibers--which the cotton plant had trouble
developing in the field.
The May issue of Agricultural Research magazine has a story
about the SEM work and other ARS textile discoveries, including enzyme
pre-treatments that could reduce the impact of defects called white speck neps,
and fabric treatments that may be kinder to the environment. The story can be
viewed on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Wilton R. Goynes, ARS Southern Regional
Research Center, New Orleans, La. 70179, phone (504) 286-4483, fax 286-4419,