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New smart textile fiber developed with recycled cotton

Swatches | April 1, 2024 | By:

This composite conductive fiber uses two layers, one of recycled cotton-derived cellulose and the other of a cellulose and conductive polymer mixture. The fiber is formed through wet spinning. Image: Washington State University

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have created a conductive composite fiber for smart textiles made from recycled cotton cellulose and the synthetic polymer polyaniline. 

The researchers used a wet-spun extrusion process to merge two solutions, one containing a mixture of cellulose derived from short cottonseed linter fibers and T-shirts and the conductive polymer and another of pure cellulose. The solvents were also eco-friendly. The resulting fiber structure has the two materials bonded side by side. 

“We wanted these two solutions to work so that when the cotton and the conductive polymer contact each other they mix to a certain degree to kind of glue together, but we didn’t want them to mix too much, otherwise the conductivity would be reduced,” says Hang Liu, WSU textile researcher and the study’s corresponding author.

The fibers were tested as part of a system that powered an LED light bulb and another that detected ammonia gas. Future applications could be sensor patches on uniforms for firefighters, soldiers or other workers in chemical or hazardous environments or applications in health or exercise monitoring. The research was published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers in December 2023. Funding came from the National Science Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.

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