Location: Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research
Title: Development of eco-safe and sustainable cotton-based nonwoven fabrics
Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: November 14, 2011
Publication Date: December 8, 2011
Citation: Sawhney, A.P., Allen Jr, H.C., Reynolds, M.L., Slopek, R.P., Condon, B.D., Hui, D. 2011. Development of eco-safe and sustainable cotton-based nonwoven fabrics. In proceedings: 18th International Conference, Strutex. 8p.
Interpretive Summary: The use of cotton in nonwoven products has been severely hampered by the major facts (reasons/problems) that cotton, as supplied to user entities, needs its cleaning and purification by way of removal of its natural contaminants (foreign matter, such as the plant debris, and native impurities, such as the seed-coat fragments and waxes, etc.), which the existing nonwovens manufacturers and convertors generally do not have the resources to do that and, therefore, are forced to purchase bleached clean cotton, which is costly, eco-sensitive, and difficult to process. Hence, cotton becomes uncompetitive with other fibers that are mostly clean, white and consistent in quality and supply. In order to alleviate these two major difficulties, if not the real problems, faced by the nonwovens manufacturers, the scientists of the Agricultural Research Service, USDA, have developed viable solutions in identifying a pre-cleaned cotton that does not require the traditional cotton cleaning and, when converted, under certain processing conditions, into hydroentangled nonwoven fabrics, the latter are hydrophilic w/o the traditional scouring and may be even dyed w/o the traditional bleaching. The cotton scouring and bleaching are costly and environmentally sensitive processes and their possible eliminations are significant milestones in the development of cotton-based nonwoven products.
The research conducted at Southern Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, New Orleans, Louisiana, has identified a viable source of greige (raw) cotton that is mechanically pre-cleaned at a gin and involves no chemical, wet, or thermal treatment. The applicable cotton quality tests have shown that the pre-cleaned cotton indeed is as clean as (and perhaps even cleaner than) the classical raw cotton after the traditional cotton opening and cleaning are done at a user textile mill. This new development paves the way for the existing nonwovens manufacturers to begin using a supplied raw cotton that does not require traditional cleaning that the nonwovens industry does not have anyway!
Furthermore, the research at SRRC has shown that this pre-cleaned greige (hydrophobic) cotton, when converted into a hydroentangled nonwoven fabric under certain processing conditions, becomes hydrophilic without the traditional cotton scouring process. In fact, preliminary experiments have shown that some such fabrics, made with certain selected high-quality, pre-cleaned cotton, can even be dyed with a satisfactory color shade without scouring and, sometimes, even without the traditional bleaching. Thus, the thus far outcome of the ARS research efforts on the development of cotton-based nonwovens is that greige cotton, which is renewable, cost effective, and ecologically safe to produce and use, may be beneficially utilized in many value-added nonwoven products, especially the wipes.