VALUE ADDED AND HIGH-VOLUME COTTON PRODUCTS AND PROCESSES
Location: Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research
Title: Development of Cotton-Based Nonwovens Products
Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 8, 2009
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Nonwoven products are growing rapidly, worldwide. Presently, a vast majority (~98%) of these products are made with manufactured fibers of synthetic or natural polymers, such as polypropylene, polyester, polyethylene, rayon, pulp, and the like. Because of economic and technical reasons, cotton, especially in its virgin/greige state, is rarely utilized. However, cotton certainly offers certain unsurpassed attributes, which must be fully explored to evaluate the fiber’s full potential toward manufacturing nonwovens of commercial importance. Cotton is one of the major U.S. crops and hence requires a well thought-out and disciplined research approach to improve its value-added utilization. The Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has embarked on a sophisticated research program to explore development of nonwoven products of mostly cotton content. A brand new research facility, named Cotton Nonwovens Research Laboratory, has been established under the Cotton Chemistry and Utilization (CCU) Research Unit at Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. The facility is comprised of modern nonwovens technologies, machinery, and chemical finishing/modification equipment. Although the research facility is expected to be in full swing within a year or so, a lot of necessary, primary research and planning, installation of the machinery and equipment, staffing and training is well underway. Within the next few years, the research program at CCU is expected to produce new knowledge and yield new cotton-containing nonwoven products of commercial importance.
This article briefly describes the planned or projected developments of cotton-based nonwoven products, using state-of-the art technologies and equipment that now, after the devastating hurricane Katrina, have been made available for research at the Southern Regional Reserach Center. Although we still face some severe challenges in predominant use of cotton in nonwovens, there are some golden opportunities to explore, as well. Thus, the mission of a newly established nonwoves laboratory at the Center is to conduct research to develop new and improved, function-specific nonwoven substrates and end-products containing cotton. Cotton, unlike petroleum-derived synthetic fibers, is an indefinitely sustainable and an enviornmentally benign agricultural commodity, which obviously could favorably impact the global ecology. Preliminary investigations reveal that the chemically treated cotton-containing wipes, among many other new developments, could be developed into a significant market for the safe-food processing industry.