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ARS Home » Southeast Area » New Orleans, Louisiana » Southern Regional Research Center » Cotton Structure and Quality Research » Research » Research Project #439211

Research Project: Enhancing the Quality and Sustainability of Cotton Fiber and Textiles

Location: Cotton Structure and Quality Research

Project Number: 6054-44000-080-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 14, 2020
End Date: Jul 13, 2025

Objective:
The U.S. cotton industry has a number of current problems, including plastic contamination of modules, bales and finished products, increasing competition from man-made fibers, and the need to improve the sustainability of the industry. Over the next five years, we will work to develop methods to remove contaminants from fiber, improve industry sustainability through increased efficiency in the movement of bales from field to market, reduce energy consumption during processing, address concerns about micro-fiber generation, and improve the understanding of length and nep content in cotton to better compete with man-made fibers. Objective 1: Develop on-bale and seed-cotton fiber quality measurements to provide real-time feedback to ginners and warehouses on fiber quality. Sub-Objective 1A: Develop and implement methods to measure color and leaf grade on cotton bales as they are produced. Sub-Objective 1B: Develop and implement methods to utilize the fiber maturity of seed cotton to improve the fiber quality of ginned lint. Objective 2: Develop methods to detect and remove contaminants from ginned cotton fiber during commercial processing. Sub-Objective 2A: Perform fate analyses on plastic contaminants during textile processing. Sub-Objective 2B: Implement machine modifications to improve removal of plastic contaminants during processing. Sub-Objective 2C: Develop a low-cost contamination detection and removal system. Sub-Objective 2D: Use blending and processing parameter changes to improve the processing of cotton samples that have been contaminated with entomological sugars. Objective 3: Develop methods to better measure fiber length distributions and nep content. Sub-Objective 3A: Implement a capacitance measurement for producing a more accurate fibrogram from a cotton beard. Sub-Objective 3B: Develop techniques to extract nep data from a fiber bundle. Objective 4: Reduce the energy used in the post-ginning commercial processing of cotton. Sub-Objective 4A: Study fiber-seed attachment force at a practical scale and identify cultivar-attachment force relationships. Sub-Objective 4B: Identify fiber quality parameters that affect fiber frictional characteristics. Objective 5: Identify links between fiber properties, textile construction, and micro-fiber generation during the lifecycle of commercial cotton products. Sub-Objective 5A: Construct a device to monitor micro-fibers produced during dry abrasion of fabrics. Sub-Objective 5B: Understand the roles of fiber quality, yarn construction and fabric construction in micro-fiber generation during abrasion.

Approach:
The U.S. cotton industry faces several problems, including contamination, competition from man-made fibers, and the need to improve sustainability. These problems will be addressed by developing methods to remove contaminants, improving the movement of bales from field to market, developing a better understanding of cotton fiber length and fiber entanglements (i.e., nep content), reducing processing energy costs, and understanding micro-fiber generation. The first objective will provide bale quality properties to ginners and warehouses by developing a robotic measurement platform to capture digital images as bales are produced. The images will be used to determine some fiber properties, and the data will allow gins to address quality issues in real-time, creating a more uniform and higher quality cotton that can better compete with man-made fibers. The data will enable warehouses to implement new strategies for the movement of bales from field to market, which will reduce the frequency of bale movements and reduce the energy used in staging bales. Contamination, a major issue impacting U.S. cotton, will be addressed by conducting processing trials that will provide information on the disposition of contaminants during textile processing. This data will be used to help design machinery modifications that aid in the removal of contaminants. Additionally, a low-cost system for the detection and removal of contamination as the fiber is cleaned will also be designed and built. Improved competition with man-made fiber will be achieved in the third objective through improved measurements of cotton properties. Improved fiber length measurement and high-speed measurement of neps, will aid mills in utilizing cotton, and the creation of new measurements will allow for the more predictable processing of cotton. Improving the sustainability of cotton is addressed in the fourth and fifth objectives. Reducing the energy used in the commercial processing of cotton can be achieved by developing practical methods for estimating the fiber-seed attachment force and fiber friction, which will be achieved by monitoring the energy used to gin cotton at a laboratory scale. Developing this knowledge will allow for seed attachment force to be considered when breeding improved cotton varieties. The fifth objective will identify links between fiber and textile properties and the amount of micro-fibers generated during the lifecycle of commercial textiles. Micro-fibers will be collected from dry fabric abrasion experiments, and methods will be developed to characterize and quantify the micro-fibers generated.