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Low-grade cotton better at oil pick-up

July 1st, 2013 / By: / Advanced Textiles, Industry News, Sustainability

A pound of low-micronaire cotton, a cotton of lesser value in the fiber market, can pick up more than 30 pounds of crude oil, making it an effective absorbent for cleaning up spills. Researchers at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, published their findings in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. Low micronaire cotton, about 10 percent of the crop in West Texas, doesn’t take dye well, shrinks and has a natural waxy quality, making it less valuable for clothing or apparel. Those disadvantages become advantages in oil clean-up situations. Because low-micronaire cotton shrinks, more can be packed into a given area, allowing crude oil to stick to the surface and get absorbed into the fiber. The natural waxiness helps to repel water. “It’s a major discovery from scientific and economic standpoints,” says Ron Kendall, director of Texas Tech’s Institute of Environmental and Human Health. “It gives us an excellent tool for cleanup of shorelines, animals and ecologically sensitive areas as well as a new technology for booms that can stop oil sheen moving into wetlands.” Low micronaire cotton is also biodegradable, giving it environmental benefits beyond great sorption capacity for crude oil.

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