Cotton has long been "the fabric of our lives," but seven organizations have developed new and innovative uses for the plant that evolved cotton's role beyond fabric, alone.
A series of new film clips on the Cotton Today Web site present the innovators and the fruits of their creativity:
- Natural cotton fiber insulation from recycled denim (Bonded Logic);
- Edible cottonseed as a high-protein food source (Texas AgriLife Research);
- Cotton booms and wipes for oil-spill clean-up (Sellars Absorbent Materials, Inc.);
- Home compostable packing material (Ecovative Design);
- Electrically-conductive cotton fabric (Cornell University);
- Erosion-controlling hydromulch (Mulch and Seed Innovations); and
- Decontamination wipes (Texas Tech University).
"At Cotton Incorporated, we define sustainability as practices that create an environmental, economic and societal benefit," explains Dr. Kater Hake, Vice President of Agricultural and Environmental Research at Cotton Incorporated. "The developments of these organizations certainly address those three tiers of sustainability, and demonstrate the seemingly infinite uses for the cotton plant."
Phoenix-based Bonded Logic has developed a method of transforming used denim clothing into building insulation. Over the past five years, the company has transformed denim collected through the Cotton. From Blue To Green™ drive into UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation; which has been donated to communities in need.
Professor Keerti Rathore and his research team at Texas AgriLife Research achieved a breakthrough that retains the naturally-occurring pest-control chemical gossypol in the cotton plant, while reducing it in the seed to a level fit for human digestion. This is a significant achievement because, for every pound of cotton fiber, a plant produces, 1.5 pounds of protein-rich seed.
Sellars Absorbent Materials developed a proprietary process of manufacturing cotton booms and wipes that repel water and absorb oil; meaning the products can float on the water's surface while absorbing as much as twice the oil by weight as conventional, oil-derived polypropylene booms.
Ecovative Design in Green Island New York has created a range of home compostable alternatives to traditional packing materials. The EcoCradle™ products, made from seed husks and mushroom roots, perform like synthetic alternatives, but are made of natural materials through an eco-friendly process.
Professor Juan Hinestroza and a team of researchers at the Textiles Nanotechnology Center at Cornell University created a method of coating cotton fabric with electrically-conductive nanoparticles, allowing garments to, among other things, power personal electronics.
The Ellis family of Centre, Alabama have transformed the byproducts of the cotton ginning process into a unique, spray-able hydromulch that helps control erosion and encourage vegetation growth on landscaping projects.
Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar and his team at the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University leveraged the absorbent capabilities of cotton to create the Fibertect® wipe that can absorb and neutralize gases and liquids that might be used in chemical warfare. The process has received a patent and has been validated for use as a low-cost decontamination wipe for the U.S. military.
Hake concludes, "For six millennia cotton has been essentially a source of textile fiber, but these creative organizations are evolving the use of cotton and, in the process, its future."