Submitted to: National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/1/2007
Publication Date: 4/21/2007
Citation: Ruppenicker, G., Sawhney, A.P., Subramaniam, J., Sing, K.V., Pang, S. 2007. Tensile Properties of Cotton Polyethylene Blends: A Review. National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference. CDROM. 572-576. Interpretive Summary: Although cotton fabrics have several advantages over fabrics made with manmade fibers, the consumption of cotton in military and industrial uses has been declining for decades. The main reason for the decline is that a cotton fabric, on weight basis, is relatively weaker and hence less durable than a comparable fabric made with synthetic fibers. Furthermore, cotton fabrics when specially treated with a fire-retardant finish or coating (an essential requirement for certain end uses) become undesirably heavy and further lose their tear strength and durability. So, many cotton textile products for the military and industry have been replaced with their “synthetic equivalents.” Research on blends of predominantly cotton with a small percentage of relatively new, super-tenacity, high molecular polyethylene has clearly shown that these cotton-rich blends, compared to 100% cotton fabrics, are significantly superior in strength, durability and flame retardancy. This may revive use of cotton in the products lost to other fibers. However, further research is needed to compare these blends with the existing products made with common synthetic fibers.
Technical Abstract: Cotton historically has been the fiber of choice for many textile applications, especially those for apparel and household fabrics. However, cotton is a relatively weak fiber when compared to today’s most commonly used synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon. Consequently, beneficial blending of cotton with these strong synthetic fibers for apparel and household fabrics has been in practice for decades now. However, blending of cotton with these common synthetic fibers still has not been quite satisfactory for certain industrial, military and special applications, such as heavy-duty transportation fabrics for “mobile” industry, military tents, and the like. As a result, cotton share in the industrial and military end-use applications has been steeply declining in past several decades. Research at the Southern Regional Research Center has shown that blending of cotton with only a fraction, say 20%, high-molecular polyethylene staple fiber could double and even triple the strength of the blend yarns and fabrics, while still maintaining the underlying benefits of cotton. For example, a military tent fabric used to be an all-cotton fabric. No more! The reasons are simple. A pure cotton tent fabric does not meet the current military requirements of tensile and tear strengths. In order for the fabric to be flame retardant (FR) or resistant, a heavy coat of FR chemical treatment is essential, which, in addition to exceeding the weight specification, further reduces the tear strength and hence durability of the fabric. Therefore, it really makes sense to further explore the great potential of this unique polyethylene fiber in combination with cotton in predominance. This manuscript reviews some interesting mechanical properties of the yarns and fabrics made with this unique blend, in order to emphasize the need for further research on this cotton-rich blend for different applications.