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Cleaning up Gulf oil with cotton?

May 19th, 2010 / By: / Industry News

The same Texas-Tech-created nonwoven cotton technology that keeps soldiers safe from chemical and biological warfare agents may also serve as an effective sponge for sopping up oil that has polluted the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar, supervisor of the Nonwoven and Advanced Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech’s Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH), says that “the fabric of our lives” may do a better job of absorbing the oil spill than booms made of synthetic material.

“Already, several million feet of the oil-containment booms have been used to capture the oil spilling into the Gulf,” says Ramkumar. “They are made of synthetic materials, don’t biodegrade, and absorb only a third of what raw cotton can do. The properties of raw cotton allow it to soak up to 40 times its weight. With chemical modifications, it can soak up to as much as 70 times its weight. And it won’t just stay in a landfill forever.”

Dr. Ramkumar has developed several nonwoven cotton technologies, including Fibertect™, which is used in the U.S. military’s decontamination kits. He and a small group of graduate students are researching ways to use lower-quality cottons (not suitable for apparel) for uses such as this.

SOURCE: Texas-Tech University

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