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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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The accomplishments of the Southern Regional Research Center are documented in 8755 publications including 1035 patents. Some of our most used inventions are summarized below:

DURABLE PRESS TREATMENTS FOR COTTON FABRICS. Untreated cotton fabric wrinkles upon laundering and requires ironing. The introduction of synthetic fibers such as polyester threatened cotton's share of the fabric market because fabrics prepared from these fibers did not require ironing. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed chemical treatments for cotton fabrics that gave them wrinkle resistance. This technology was adopted worldwide and is the basis for the permanent press cotton garments which have been marketed for the past 35 years. The existence of this technology contributed substantially to the preservation of cotton's share of the textile fiber market and reduced or eliminated the drudgery of ironing for the consumer of cotton textiles.

FLAME RETARDANT TREATMENTS FOR COTTON FABRICS. Garments and household items prepared from cotton are inflammable. This flammability makes them unsuitable for use in protective clothing and presents a hazard for small children as well. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center have developed chemical treatments which are durable to laundering and render cotton fabric flame retardant. These treatments are used to manufacture protective clothing for both military and civilian use. Flame retardant cotton garments prepared by our processes are used by our astronauts.

FROZEN ORANGE JUICE CONCENTRATE. Oranges were once a surplus seasonal crop mainly in Florida. This was a problem for the citrus growers. The Winterhaven field station of the Southern Regional Research Center developed the now familiar frozen orange juice concentrate. This provided a market for the surplus crop and fresh tasting orange juice for the entire country through the year.

PARTIALLY DEFATTED PEANUTS. Peanuts are a highly nutritious food but have a high oil content which increases their calorie content. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed a process for removing part of the oil from the peanut and then returning the lower calorie peanut to its original shape. These partially defatted peanuts are currently sold under the Weight Watchers Brand.

SUCROSE ESTERS. For many years sucrose was a surplus and inexpensive crop. Scientists chemically modified sucrose to produce new compounds known as sucrose esters. These compounds are used as emulsifiers, stabilizers, and texturizers in foods. At the time they were originally developed their use in foods was not permitted in the United States so the process was patented and used principally in Japan. The Food and Drug Administration is now permitting their use in foods in the United States. They are now used in baked goods, baking mixes, biscuit mixes, substitute dairy products, frozen dairy desserts and mixes and whipped milk products. They are also components of protective coatings for apples, bananas and pears to retard ripening and spoilage.

ACETOGLYCERIDES. Many oilseed crops were in surplus and it was desirable to find new uses for vegetable fats and oils derived from them. Fats and oils are composed of chemicals called fatty acids combined with a chemical called glycerol. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center discovered that replacing two fatty acids from an ordinary fat or oil molecule with acetic acid groups yielded unique products they called acetoglycerides. Some of these new compounds could be formed into thin, stretchable films suitable for edible coatings. Uses of acetoglycerides in and with food are quite varied: coatings where thin films form oxygen barriers, lubricants and release agents, emulsifiers, and plasticizers. Currently, Eastman Chemical and five other manufacturers sell over 1,000 tons annually in the United States. They are also produced in at least four foreign countries.

FLAME RESISTANT COTTON BATTING. Cotton batting is resilient and can be used as stuffing in upholstery products. Cotton, however, is inflammable. A dropped cigarette could easily lead to disaster. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed a technique for applying the flame retardant compound boric acid and its derivatives to cotton batting thus rendering it resistant to burning. This permitted the safe use of cotton batting in, for example, automobile cushions and bedding.

NOVEL CARBONATED MILK BEVERAGES. The continuous changes in lifestyles are creating the need for more convenient foods. The traditional family breakfast, lunch, and dinner are increasingly being replaced by fast foods or snacks. These foods are consumed with soft drinks rather than with milk or other dairy beverages. Per capita consumption of soft drinks has surpassed milk since about 1973 and even water since about 1984. These dietary changes have important nutritional implications as milk is the major source of calcium in American diets. Deficiency of calcium has been associated with osteoporosis and high blood pressure. The decrease in milk consumption by U. S consumers also deprives our dairy farmers of their product, thus creating surpluses. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center have developed some novel fruit juice- and cappuccino coffee-carbonated milk beverages, thus providing to the U. S. consumers a choice of selecting a convenient, nutritious wholesome food. Under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the National Fruit Flavor Company in New Orleans, the cappuccino coffee-milk beverage is being developed and marketed.

ANTIBACTERIAL COTTON FABRICS. Disease-causing and odor-producing bacteria can reside in textile fabrics. This is particularly undesirable in fabrics used in hospitals and for other medical applications. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center have developed treatments for cotton textiles with compounds containing peroxides that impart antibacterial properties to the fabrics that can withstand laundering. These processes are now being evaluated by industry.

DETOXIFICATION OF PEANUT AND COTTONSEED MEALS. Both peanut and cottonseed meals can contain small amounts of a toxic compound known as aflatoxin produced by fungi. These toxins remain in the residual meals after their oils are extracted. The oils are toxin free. Cottonseed and peanut meals are used as animal feeds. Ingestion of aflatoxin contaminated meals by animals results in damage to their livers and nervous systems. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed a treatment to detoxify the meal. This treatment of meals with gaseous ammonia under heat and pressure is safe and reduced aflatoxin 99-100%. The existence of this process enhanced the market value of these products. Arizona and California, the states where most of the contaminated seeds are processed, approved forms of ammoniation for within state use.

AFLATOXIN DETECTION IN COTTONSEED. In the late 1960's the potential for aflatoxin in cottonseed emerged as a serious problem to cottonseed processors. Processors could not market seed and meal because the extent of contamination was not known. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed reliable analytical methods for toxin detection and provided standard samples of aflatoxins. These methods became the official methods of analysis and have been used for 20 years by oilseed processors to guarantee supply of toxin free products to feed formulators.

PROTECTING COTTON FOR OUTDOOR APPLICATIONS. Cotton fabrics have found extensive use in outdoor application such as tents, tarpaulins, covers of various types and sand bags. Cotton is susceptible to degradation upon outdoor exposure. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed processes for treating cotton that assisted in protecting these fabrics from sunlight degradation, mildew and algae attack, and provided flame resistance and water repellency. Some of these finishes have found extensive and continuing use over the years. These include copper fungicides for mildew resistance, titanium dioxide for protection against sunlight and certain chromium based finished for combined sunlight and mildew resistance.

HIGH-CALORIE INTRAVENOUS FAT EMULSION. Improved healing in wounded military personnel and surgery patients can require a very high calorie intake. In many cases the patient has difficulty eating the required extra calories which would hasten recovery. Scientists at the Souther Regional Research Center combined water and oil with an efficient but non-toxic emulsifier, minerals and buffer into an emulsion that would not clog arteries or be lethal to the patients. The most suitable emulsifier was egg lecithin. This product, originally used by the military during the Korean and Viet Nam Wars, is now being used by major hospitals in post-operative care of major surgery patients who are weak and require additional calories for maximum healing.

PRECOOKED DEHYDRATED SWEET POTATO FLAKES. Sweet potatoes grown in many sizes and shapes, many of which are not suitable for either the fresh or canning markets. A use for these misshapen or oversized sweet potatoes was provided when scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed a process for producing a precooked, dehydrated sweet potato flakes. Addition of hot water yielded mashed sweetpotatoes. The process was used initially by the military for service men overseas and for school lunches. It is now sold for institutional purposes only.

MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT FOR PROCESSING COTTON. Most machinery used to process cotton from the field to the fabric is based on well established technology. However, research by scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center has provided the following improved equipment that has been adopted by processing mills: granular card, cotton opener-cleaner, aerodynamic cleaner, and non-lint tester.

COTTON STRETCH FABRICS. Woven cotton fabrics generally exhibit very little elasticity. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed a processes based on slack mercerization to produce stretch cotton bandages and stretch cotton fabrics. Garments and socks prepared from these fabrics are more comfortable. Stretch cotton bandages are substantially more efficient when used to cover wounds on movable parts of the body.

OIL REPELLENT FABRICS. World War II provided several challenges to scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center. A process was developed for the Army Chemical Warfare Service which prevented liquid nerve gases from wetting and penetrating sateen fabric. Fabrics treated by this process were adapted by the Air Force for rocket handlers' clothing worn when liquid missile fuel were in use. This process led to oil-repellent fabrics after the patents were declassified by the Army.

IMPROVED DEHYDRATED CELERY. Dehydrated vegetables for use as seasoning are very popular. One problem is loss on intensity of flavor. Scientists associated with the Southern Regional Research Center improved the quality of dehydrated celery by adding freezing and explosion puffing steps to the conventional process.

FIRMER PICKLES. Fermentation of cucumbers to yield pickles is sometimes results in the formation of "bloaters" and soft pickles. Scientists associated with the Southern Regional Research Center determined the causes for these problems and developed processes for helping to prevent their formation.

PRODUCTS FROM SOUTHERN PINES. Pine trees are a valuable resource in the southeast United States. Scientists from the Naval Stores Laboratory which was associated with the Southern Regional Research Center developed many useful products from pine over the years. Included are paper size from rosin, rosin soaps, rosin used in surface coatings such as paints, varnishes, lacquers and printing inks.

SUPERIOR SYNTHETIC RUBBER. The synthetic rubber developed during World War II was of very poor quality. After the war the synthetic rubber industry began a program to produce a better synthetic rubber for use in tires. An essential chemical used in the process is the one the initiates the reaction at low temperatures. Scientists at the Naval Stores Laboratory of the Southern Regional Research Center improved the process for making synthetic rubber by substituting a chemical prepared from citrus peel and pine trees for the initiator made from petroleum. This process was adopted by industry and is used to make over 1 million tons of synthetic rubber annually.

GOSSYPOL ANALYSES HELP ASSURE MARKETABILITY OF COTTONSEED. Cottonseed contains a pigment called gossypol. Chickens fed meal containing cottonseed high in gossypol and other contaminants lay eggs with pink whites and green yolks. This limits its use in animal feeds. A good market for cottonseed is essential. Cotton breeders therefore began to work toward producing a cottonseed that did not contain gossypol. Processors required reliable and sensitive methods for analyzing cottonseed for gossypol so that they could assured their customers that the gossypol level was safe. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed methods for analysis of cottonseed for gossypol that have been adopted and used throughout the world.

EDIBLE RICE BRAN OIL. Rice bran, a waste product of rice milling, was found to contain an edible oil that could be easily extracted. This discovery led to added income for the rice farmer and increased the nation's supply of food oil.

HEAT TRANSFER PRINTING PROCESS FOR COTTON FABRIC. The heat transfer process was originally designed for printing polyester fabrics with disperse dyes because of the affinity of disperse dyed for synthetic fibers only. Although cotton cellulose has no affinity for disperse dyes, scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed a process whereby a cotton garment was chemically modified to allow cotton-containing material to be heat transfer printed with disperse dyes just like polyester fabric. This was the first heat transfer printing process to be used commercially for obtaining durable, high quality prints on cotton fabrics in garment form.

SCULPTURED COTTON LACE. Lace has a flat appearance when prepared. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center developed a process based on a chemical procedure known as slack mercerization to give the lace a three-dimensional "sculptured" appearance. Sculptured lace is more attractive to most consumers.

COCOA BUTTER-LIKE FAT. Cocoa butter, from which chocolate candy is made, has the unique characteristic of being solid at room temperature but of melting when placed in the mouth. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center chemically modified cottonseed oil giving it properties similar to that of cocoa butter. These new confectionery fast fats could them be used by the candy industry.

COTTON TIRE CORD. Before the introduction of high-strength rayon, nylon and polyester into vehicular tire cord, cotton was used for this purpose. In order to increase the useful lifetime of these tires simple ways to control the stretch and breaking strength of cotton cord according to industrial requirements were developed by scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center.

HEAT RESISTANT COTTON. Cotton in its native state is not resistant to heat. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center established that a chemical treatment known as acetylation conferred heat stability to cotton. These acetylated cottons were used in ironing board covers in the past.

HIGH PROTEIN RICE FLOUR. In many parts of the world, rice-- predominantly a carbohydrate-- is the primary food source. Good human nutrition required a balance between protein, carbohydrate and fat. Scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center observed that the outer section of the rice kernel contains the greatest amount of protein. They used an "overmilling" procedure to remove this protein rich outer surface in the form of a flour. The residual kernels remain suitable for conventional uses. The high-protein rice flour is incorporated into food products to improve their nutritional value.

LIGHT-WEIGHT OUTDOOR FABRICS CONTAINING COTTON. Outdoor fabrics, light, strong, durable to weathering and flame resistant have been developed by scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center. The fabric is especially suitable for tents and tarpaulins, since its high cotton content assured breathability of the fabric and, consequently, elimination of sweating and dripping experienced with synthetics. Lightness and strength of the fabric are achieved by insertion of a multifilament glass core during spinning of the yarn. Durability and flame resistance are imparted by chemical finishing.

Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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