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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research

2006 Annual Report

1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
This project focuses on four objectives to increase cotton's use in traditional woven textile markets, and in non-traditional nonwovens, polymers, and composites markets. The objectives are: (1) design and create compounds that afford wovens and nonwovens resiliency in use and protection against open flames and microbial attack; (2) design and create polymer (plastic) modified cotton fibers to enable cotton's use in new technical textiles, such as waterproof microporous membranes (or breathable skins); (3) design and create cotton-derivatives that are water repellent and reactive to explore their uses in making adhesives, coatings, and composites; and (4) eliminate the need, expense, and environmental consequences of yarn sizing (chemical coating on yarn) by improving yarn structure and quality; using natural chemicals found in cotton to effect lubrication; setting the yarn's twist to improve weaving efficiency; and modifying the surfaces of machine components to minimize yarn friction and abrasion in weaving.

Our objectives address the goals of the Strategic Plan of National Program 306, "Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products." Specifically, the project supports Goal 1, Objective 1.1 of the Strategic Plan to "Provide Science-based Knowledge and Technologies to Generate New or Improved High-Quality, Value-Added products and processes to Expand Domestic and Foreign Markets for Agricultural Commodities." The research supports the program component of natural fibers and materials, under the Commodity Classification Code C2110 and STP Codes (Industrial Processes and Products) and (Fiber Products).

How serious is the problem? This is a very serious problem because we need a concerted program within the Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC), the National Program Staff, and stakeholders to capture inventions and generate value from them through business development. To develop intellectual property generated with cotton, involvement of industry executives are needed to get early innovators and adaptors involved to build momentum to develop inventions and transform them into marketable products.

Why does it matter? Cotton was king in the south until disruptive changes were introduced by polyester, nylon, and other plastic fibers [polyethylene (PEO), and polypropylene (PPO)]. The 30-year U.S. market share (1970-2000) for cellulose fibers decreased from 43 to 8% of all fibers consumed (Chem. & Eng. News, 5-15-00, p.25), and composite formulators avoid using cotton in composites citing incompatibility of cotton with metals and plastics (Polym. Mater. Enc., 1996, Vol. C, Wiley, 1079). This trend can be reversed by successful fulfillment of the objectives in this research project, forging alliances with forward thinking cotton industry executives, appropriation of intellectual property developed with cotton, and generating an industry structure that brings new inventions into competitive markets. Consequently, the effort will enable the cotton industry, generators of the starting material, cotton, to create, capture, and deliver value to consumers through inventions made at Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC).

2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)
FY 2006: (1) Sub-Objective 1.1. Syntheses of oligomeric anhydrides, dibromide polymers, CM cotton salts, phosphonates, and inorganic phosphates. (2) Sub-Objective 1.1.2. Characterization of new polymer/cotton nonwoven composites. (3) Sub-Objective 2.1. Cycloaddition of benzyl cotton and PEO/PPO co-polymers. (4) Sub-Objective 2.2. Characterization of structural, thermal, and solution properties of new cyclo-polymers and cotton-derivative/cyclo-polymer blend. (5) Sub-Objective 3.1. Adjust functional groups of cotton with: amines, butyl ethers, benzyl ethers, hydroxyls and methoxy-ethoxy-methyl groups. (6) Sub-Objective 3.2. Characterization of structural, thermal, mechanical, and biological properties of the new cotton-derived polymers. (To be done in conjunction with 3.1.). (7) Sub-Objective 4.1. Production of 100% cotton yarn for size-free weaving. (8) Sub-Objective 4.2. Determination of the best technique to prepare a loom beam without the traditional sizing. Evaluate the technique through weaving trials on a modern high-speed weaving machine.

FY 2007: (9) Sub-Objective 1.1. Scale-up production of promising polymers. Prepare highlofts and barrier fabrics on small scale and test them with inorganic formulations and new polymers and phosphonates. (10) Sub-Objective 2.1. Benzylated cotton solution will be mixed with cycloaddition polymers and extruded into fibrs or cast into films. (11) Sub-Objective 2.2. Characterize structural and thermal properties of polymers blends. (12) Sub-Objective 3.1. Scale-up procedures to modify cotton's functional groups. Generate large batches of these polymers. (13) Sub-Objective 3.2. Continue characterization of novel polymers. (14) Sub-Objective 3.3. Explore and explain the curing behavior of pre-polymers by thermal and mechanical methods. (15) Sub-Objective 4.2. Seek Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) partner to develop size-less weaving technologies. (16) Sub-Objective 4.3. Prepare and test loom components modified with ceramic, polyethylene, and other proprietary grafted coatings for improved size-less weaving properties.

FY 2008: (17) Sub-Objective 1.1. Generate durable flame and antimicrobial formulations of new polymer/cotton nonwoven composites. (18) Sub-Objective 1.2. Characterize polymer/cotton nonwoven composites. Conduct burst, compression recovery, rupture, and resiliency tests. Determine insulation value and flammability. (19) Sub-Objective 2.1. Optimize properties of benzylated cottons and cycloaddition products. (20) Sub-Objective 2.2. Generate structure property relationships. (21) Sub-Objective 2.3. Begin developing methods to generate breathable fabrics. (22) Sub-Objective 3.3. Prepare and characterize cotton-based thermosets and composities. Characterize thermosets as adhesives and composites. (23) Sub-Objective 4.4. Test fabric appearance, hand, dimensional stability and finishing performance.

FY 2009: (24) Sub-Objective 1.1. Scale-up formulations. Finalize formulations of new polymer/cotton nonwoven composites. Explore commercial uses and transfer technology to interested and users. (25) Sub-Objective 1.2. Characterize the thermal, solution, physical, and surface properties of new polymer/cotton non-wowen composites. (26) Sub-Objective 2.1. Scale-up preparations of fibers and films. Develop methods to transfer membranes to fabrics and characterize these products. (27) Sub-Objective 2.2. Characterize fabrics from films and fibers. (28) Sub-Objective 2.3. Finalize formulations for the preparation of breathable fabrics. Conduct moisture permeation studies on breathable fabrics. (29) Sub-Objective 3.3. Develop new thermoset processing conditions. Finalize a process to generate cotton-based thermosets and explore costings formulations. (30) Sub-Objective 3.4. Evaluate cotton-based thermosets for end-use applications, e.g., adhesives, coatings, and composites. (31) Sub-Objective 4.5. Evaluate compact ring-spun yarns, and carded rotor-spun yarns conditions for these yarns. Transfer size-less weaving technology to industry.

4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
Covalent reactive chemistry treatment for cotton has been developed and tested giving durable flame retardance on cotton fabric.

4b.List other significant research accomplishment(s), if any.
Silver containing chemical treatments for cotton were developed and tested rendering a more durable anti-bacterial treatment for cotton fabric.

The effect of cotton mercerization on its absorbance characteristics in nonwovens was investigated and shown to not enhance absorbancy.

4c.List significant activities that support special target populations.

4d.Progress report.
A subordinate project was established through a Specific Cooperative Agreement between ARS and the Louisiana State University (LSU), Baton Rouge, 6435-41000-094-01S, entitled, "Comprehensive Mechanical Engineering Analyses of the Crictical Components of Weaving Process Toward Achieving Size-Free Weaving." This agreement creates a post-doctoral position to mechanically analyze yarns prepared without the use of coatings (sizing agents) and to study their weaving performance.

This post-doctoral appointment will terminate at the end of 2006; however, work on the topic area will continue with the same individual for an additional year at no cost to the ARS.

Hurricane Katrina significantly disrupted the progress of the project during 2005-2006. Along with loss of facilities, there was some loss of personnel that limited progress as well.

5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
Predicted impact for each objective over the life of the project are summarized below:

(1) Success in objective 1 will afford: (a) Novel fibers for flame resistant (FR) highlofts and barrier linings; (b) Crosslinkers that provide woven fabrics that have permanent press protection and dimensional stability; and (c) Plastics that graft or entangle cotton nonwovens for enhanced dimensional stability, allow heat printing, and protect against attack by microbes and flame. (2) Success in Objective 2 will afford blended cotton fibers that are elastic so that technical textiles like Gore-Tex can be produced. (3) Success in Objective 3 will afford new cotton-based plastics for the development of adhesives, and load bearing building materials. (4) Success in Objective 4 will afford new knowledge and technologies about sizeless weaving.

The developing of the envisioned products have significant impact on the cotton industry. The formulation of flame-resistant cotton fabrics opened potentially new large markets to cotton fibers that are currently being filled by synthetics. Technical cottons (water repelling cottons, flexible cotton-based fibers, cotton-based adhesives, etc.) will also add to potential markets. The development of size-less weaving processes will eliminate two processing steps that are currently necessary, whereby reducing processing costs and reducing the environmental impact of weaving. The incorporation of cotton into non-wovens products has the potential to impact several large downstream industries from automobile manufacturers to medical textile processors.

Sizeless weaving on large pilot scale has been carried out on a modern weaving loom.

Cotton-based plastic composites have been prepared on lab scale.

Absorbency characteristics of 100% cotton non-woven fabrics were evaluated.

Cotton has been chemically trated (benzylated) for water repellancy.

Cotton has been chemically treated with a vareity of synthetic materials to render different performance properties to cotton.

The above accomplishments relate to the National Program 306, "Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products." Specifically, the project supports Goal 1, Objective 1.1 of the Strategic Plan to "Provide Science-Based Knowledge and Technologies to Generate New or Improved High-Quality, Value-Added products and processes to Expand Domestic and Foreigh Markets for Agricultural Commodities."

6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?
Many presentations were made worldwide on new flame retardant crosslinking agents for cotton, silver containing antimicrobial gauzes, at national and international meeting attended by farmers, industrial representatives, and scientists in academia and industry.

Furthermore, many industrial representatives visited SRRC to consult and understand the sizefree weaving work and the flame resistant and antimicrobial non-wovens work.

7.List your most important publications in the popular press and presentations to organizations and articles written about your work. (NOTE: List your peer reviewed publications below).
Modern Cotton Materials Show Value of Ag Research, Farm Bureau News, Vol 85, No 12, June 12, 2006, interview given by Dr. Brian Condon.

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
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