Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA
Incorporation of biological molecules to cotton may lead to novel functional cottons. Finding value-added applications for cotton, enabling it to be wearable smart textiles will be the next phase of R& D in the cotton sector. This scribe has been advocating for developing functional cottons at farm level in addition to the industry focusing its efforts on yield and quality aspects.
A team of international scientists from Israel, Germany and Austria has used a biological approach to impart functionality to cotton. External biological molecules that contain glucose moieties with specific functionalities were incorporated to upland cotton in vitro. The in vitro cultures were incubated with glucose moieties that could penetrate through the cell wall to be incorporated into fibers. Glucose moieties with magnetic complexes could enable cotton to be magnetic.
The incorporation of biological molecules enables fibers to have functionalities that are durable. Washability, durability and wearability are some of the challenges faced by the smart textiles sector. The exploitation of biological methods may give new opportunities for natural fibers to penetrate in to technical textiles sector.
The authors claim that this approach could be adopted to other fibers such as flax and bamboo.
It would be really useful for the cotton industry, if such efforts translate to the farm level to develop functional fibers directly from plants.
The work reported in Science journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science may be a step towards that direction.