Texas Tech scientists find nonwoven cotton holds 50 times its weight

Researchers: New Oil-Absorbing Cotton Mat Holds 50 Times Its Weight

Texas Tech scientists say nonwoven cotton could become new picker-upper for oil spills.


Texas Tech University researchers recently discovered that low-grade cotton made into an absorbent nonwoven mat can collect up to 50 times its own weight in oil.

The results strengthen the use of cotton as a natural sorbent for oil, said Seshadri Ramkumar, professor in the Department of Environmental Toxicology at Texas Tech who led the research. The results were published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Industry & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Ramkumar is a creator of Fibertect®, a nonwoven decontamination wipe developed by researchers at Texas Tech capable of cleaning chemical and biological agents. Vinitkumar Singh, a doctoral candidate working under Ramkumar, performed the experiments in this study. This multidisciplinary project involved scientists from Cotton Incorporated and Texas Tech’s Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Toxicology.

“With the 2010 crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which resulted in the major spill of about 4.9 million barrels of oil, it became apparent that we needed new clean-up technologies that did not add stress to the environment,” Ramkumar said. “This incident triggered our interest in developing environmentally sustainable materials for environmental remediation.”

In the four-year project, scientists tried to create a fundamental understanding of the effect of fiber structure and basic characteristics of cotton on oil sorption capacity of unprocessed raw cotton. The work also examined the basic mechanisms behind oil sorption by nonwoven cotton webs.

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