A team of international scientists from Israel, Germany and Austria has used a biological approach to impart functionality to cotton by incorporating biological molecules. 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 into the technical textiles sector. This approach can be adapted to other fibers such as flax and bamboo.
It would be useful for the cotton industry if such efforts translate to the farm level to develop functional fibers directly from plants. Cotton is known for its versatility, performance and natural comfort. It’s used to make all kinds of clothes and home wares as well as for industrial purposes like tarpaulins, tents, hotel sheets and army uniforms. Finding value-added applications for cotton, like in wearable smart textiles, will be the next phase of R& D in the cotton sector.