Flexible future for next generation cotton fibre
AN IRON-FREE cotton shirt sounds like a dream come true, and a team of CSIRO scientists has started working on a cotton with many of the properties of synthetics, such as stretchiness, non-creasing and even waterproof, while retaining its natural fibre feel.
But before you throw away your iron, the team is first working on understanding what determines the length, strength, and thickness of cotton fibres.
“We’re looking into the structure of cotton cell walls and harnessing the latest tools in synthetic biology to develop the next generation cotton fibre,” CSIRO scientist Dr Madeline Mitchell said.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of different cotton plants growing; some with really long thin fibres, others like the one we call ‘Shaun the Sheep’, with short, woolly fibres.
“Cotton often gets a bad rap environmentally but it is a natural, renewable fibre unlike synthetics which are made with petrochemicals.”
While cotton micro-fibres degrade naturally in the environment, every time synthetics like polyester and nylon are washed, thousands of tiny non-degradable microfibres of material are pulled free and enter our waterways, and can build up in the food chain.
NEXT GEN: Future cotton may offer the positive qualities of synthetics without problematic micro-plastics.