PSS's Abidi lays groundwork for industrial hemp fiber standards
By: Norman Martin
A Texas Tech-led project is at the forefront of taking techniques applied to cotton fiber and applying them to industrial hemp fibers with the promise of one day turning these fast-growing, woody plants into everyday apparel at a hefty scale.
Hemp is already used in a variety of industrial products, including rope, biofuels and highly insulating building products. With the support of a three-year $700,000 grant from the USDA's Agriculture Research Service, Texas Tech textile experts want to lay the groundwork for a viable quality standard using a piece of scientific tech known as an optical fiber diameter analyzer for length and diameter measurements.
“This grant is critical in addressing the need for developing classification methods,” said Noureddine Abidi, Texas Tech's Leidigh Professor in the Department of Plant & Soil Science.
In the field, hemp plants are truly weedlike in their ability to flourish in a wide variety of climates, growing as high as 15 feet and nearly an inch in diameter. The plant's inner layer is surrounded by a woody core. This is the source of the historically tough fiber.
Today, there is no testing equipment approved for use for industrial hemp fiber testing, he said. Commonly used fiber testing instruments such as high-volume instruments and advanced fiber information systems are used for cotton fiber classification and testing. Industrial hemp fibers needs similar options for market growth.
Abidi's objective is to characterize the fibers focusing on two properties in this phase of the project: fiber length and fiber diameter. Both are important to assess hemp fiber's potential for blending with cotton and producing high quality textile products. Like other natural fibers, several factors affect hemp fiber quality including variety, extraction and decortication methods, along with field conditions.
Texas Tech is in a particularly favorable position to do this type of fiber work since Abidi also serves as managing director of the university's Fiber & Biopolymer Research Institute. “The FBRI is a world class leader in fiber testing, research and education,” Abidi said. “It's well equipped to apply expertise in cotton fiber to develop standards for industrial hemp fibers.”
Located some six miles east of the main campus, the FBRI facility occupies 110,000 square-feet of space and is equipped and staffed to conduct both basic and applied research and development ranging from small-scale testing to large-scale manufacturing.
Another plus is that Abidi has a solid track record for developing multiple uses for agricultural fibers. Recent honors include Texas Tech's President's Excellence in Commercialization Award (2021), and the Discover Natural Fibres Initiative Innovation Award (2020) for his work and the patent received for his discovery of changing low-grade cotton to a cellulose gel.
CONTACT: Glen Ritchie, Department Chair, Department of Plant & Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 834- 4325 or email@example.com
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Editor: Norman Martin
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