Research performed at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, has shown finer raw cotton in a loose form to be the best fiber for absorbing oil from a spill.
TIEHH faculty worked with the Texas Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering and Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory, as well as the Southern Regional Research Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in New Orleans on the project. Two high school seniors — Ronald Kendall Jr. and Luke Kitten — also assisted with the research.
The study looked at finer and coarser cotton in loose form, as well as in needlepunched and hydroentangled nonwovens forms. The study showed finer cotton in loose form exhibited superior oil absorbency.
“The oil spill issue has become a global issue, as it affects human health and environment,” said Seshadri Ramkumar, lead author of the study and a professor in the institute’s Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory, where the research was conducted. “So far, most oil sorbents are synthetic-based, which also leads to problems in marine environments. Our goal is to enable a biodegradable and natural product to be an efficient and cost-effective oil sorbent.”