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ARS Home » Southeast Area » New Orleans, Louisiana » Southern Regional Research Center » Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research » Research » Research Project #419872

Research Project: Cotton-based Nonwovens

Location: Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research

Project Number: 6054-41000-104-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 28, 2010
End Date: May 18, 2015

Objective 1: Enhance and promote cotton’s natural sustainability features in the context of disposable nonwovens applications. Objective 2: Characterize and correlate the relationships among the cotton fiber quality parameters, the nonwovens process-ability, and the final fabric performance characteristics. Objective 3: Develop and optimize hydro-entanglement chemistry and process parameters for cotton fiber and the nonwoven fabrics thus produced. Objective 4: Develop innovative end-use functional technologies that enable increases in the amount and value of cotton used in nonwoven applications. Objective 5: Develop processes for producing nonwoven fabrics from greige cotton.

The ultimate goal of this research project is to increase value-added utilization of cotton via development of performance-specific nonwoven products containing cotton. The term "cotton" used here includes cotton lint, ginning motes and linters, comber noils, processing wastes, recycled cotton, and the like. The research approaches broadly involve 1) characterization of fibers and fiber blends to be used; 2) selection of optimum processes and conditions for fiber opening, cleaning, and web formation; 3) selection of appropriate nonwovens production system; 4) evaluation of process and product performances; 5) physical, mechanical and/or chemical modifications of nonwoven products to attain and/or enhance the required functionality; 6) within the scope of the project, determine biodegradability, cost-effectiveness, environmental impact and sustainability of the products produced; and 7) disseminate the research results via publications, technical forums, and technology transfer to industry. Specifically, the research involves developing fiber-processing technology to obtain supply of clean greige/virgin (scour/bleach-less) cotton that is appropriate for the intended end-use application. Most of the existing manufacturers of nonwoven rollgoods do not have the resources, facilities and/or technical expertise to open and clean supply bales of greige cotton(s). It is imperative to develop a protocol that would enable the nonwovens manufacturers to either both open and clean cotton in their in-house facilities or obtain some readily available pre-cleaned cotton. Depending on individual products, we will determine efficient routes for processing cotton into a clean web for downstream processes. SRRC has the equipment, including cotton carding, to thoroughly open and clean virgin cotton and also the resources to procure and process pre-cleaned supply cottons (say, UltrcleanTM cotton). The preferred research focus is on using greige cotton, instead of bleached cotton that currently is primarily used in premium quality nonwovens. However, nonwoven fabrics made with cleaned greige cotton may be satisfactorily scoured and bleached, if necessary. To determine which cotton would be most cost effective for certain specific end-use applications, certain experimental investigations and small-scale industry-like production trials have been planned. They involve studies of the fiber, process and product metrics and their relationships. Research efforts will be redirected to improve any marginal outcomes. In general, carding process will be deployed to form a web for the downstream needle-punching and/or hydroentangling systems of producing nonwoven products. Optimizations of the N-P and H-E processes and products will be sought through planned investigations. Comprehensive testing of in-process products and end-products will be conducted to realistically evaluate the research outcomes. Statistical tools will be used for reliability of the results. Issues concerning the biodegradability, disposability, environmental impact, safety, government/industry-compliance,and cost-analysis will only be conducted to the extent feasible within the scope of the project.