Flex­i­ble fu­ture for next gen­er­a­tion cot­ton fi­bre

Central and North Rural Weekly - - PAID CONTENT -

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.

PHOTO: CSIRO

NEXT GEN: Fu­ture cot­ton may of­fer the pos­i­tive qual­i­ties of syn­thet­ics with­out prob­lem­atic mi­cro-plas­tics.

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