Functional cotton that have comfort and properties of synthetic fibres are being developed. Cotton shirts that may need no iron, protection characteristics and enhanced comfort are some of the functional properties that are being engineered to make cotton a high-performance fibre. This week, a team of scientists from Australian science agency, CSIRO is pitching these ideas at the AgCatalyst event in Australia.

As part of Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform, scientists at CSIRO are exploiting genetic engineering techniques to bring functional characteristics to cotton. Dr. Madeline Mitchell in video release stated that bioengineering techniques are being used to incorporate stretchy protein into the cell wall of cotton to make it elastic so that “iron free” cotton can be envisaged.

Few years ago, Cary-based Cotton Incorporated started looking at what makes cotton breathable and comfortable at the molecular level. The research carried out at Texas Tech University in its preliminary findings showed that long chain sugar molecules have a role to play in the mass transport of water vapor through the fibre structure.

Dr. Kater Hake, Vice President for Agriculture Research at Cotton Incorporated, who served as the project manager for the above project stated, “Cotton Incorporated’s long-term objective is to make cotton comfortable and functional using innovative approaches.”

While these projects have a long-term view, investing time and resources will lead to new opportunities for cotton in high performance applications. These new ideas show that the cotton industry, in addition to enhancing the yield and fibre quality is now looking into functional attributes of cotton, which this scribe has been researching and promoting for a few years.