Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Waste fiber can be recycled into valuable products using new technique of electrospinning, Cornell researchers report


It may soon be possible to produce a low cost, high-value, high-strength fiber from a biodegradable and renewable waste product for air filtration, water filtration and agricultural nanotechnology, report polymer scientists at Cornell University. The achievement is the result of using the recently perfected technique of electrospinning to spin nanofibers from cellulose.

"Cellulose is the most abundant renewable resource polymer on earth. It forms the structure of all plants," says Margaret Frey, an assistant professor of textiles and apparel at Cornell. "Although researchers have predicted that fibers with strength approaching Kevlar could be made from this fiber, no one has yet achieved this. We have developed some new solvents for cellulose, which have allowed us to produce fibers using the technique known as electrospinning."

Frey is collaborating on the research with Yong Joo, an assistant professor, and Choo-won Kim, a graduate student, both in chemical engineering at Cornell. Frey reports on the development Sept. 9 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in New York City.

The technique of electrospinning cellulose on the nanoscale was successfully used for the first time a few months ago. It involves dissolving cellulose in a solvent, squeezing the liquid polymer solution through a tiny pinhole and applying a high voltage to the pinhole. (Nanoscale refers to measurements often at the molecular level; a nanometer is one billionth of a meter, or three times the diameter of a silicon atom.)

"The technique relies on electrical rather than mechanical forces to form fibers. Thus, special properties are required of polymer solutions for electrospinning, including the ability to carry electrical charges," says Frey.

The charge pulls the polymer solution through the air into a tiny fiber, which is collected on an electrical ground, explains Frey. "The fiber produced is less than 100 nanometers in diameter, which is 1,000 times smaller than in conventional spinning," she says. The new technique is now possible because of a new group of solvents that can dissolve cellulose, Frey says. The Cornell researchers currently are using experimental solvents to find one that will produce fibers with superior properties.

Whenever cotton is converted to fabric and garments, fiber (cellulose) is lost to scrap or waste. At present it is largely discarded or used for low-value products, such as cotton balls, yarns and cotton batting.

"Producing a high-performance material from reclaimed cellulose material will increase motivation to recycle these materials at all phases of textile production and remove them from the waste stream," notes Frey. She says that electrospinning typically produces nonwoven mats of nanofibers, which could provide nanoscale pores for industrial filters.

"Producing ultra-small diameter fibers from cellulose could have a wide variety of applications that would exploit the enormous surface area of nonwoven mats of nanofibers and the possibility of controlling the molecular orientation and crystalline structures of nanoscale fibers," says Frey. If successful, possible applications might include air filtration, protective clothing, agricultural nanotechnology and biodegradable nanocomposites.

"Another application we foresee is using the biodegradable electrospun cellulose mats to absorb fertilizers, pesticides and other materials. These materials would then release the materials at a desired time and location, allowing targeted application," says Joo.

While Frey’s group prepared the novel solvents for cellulose, Joo’s group conducted the electrospinning studies.

Frey notes that the United States produces 20 million 480-pound bales of fiber a year; world annual production is 98 million bales. At every step in the process of converting harvested cotton to fabric and garments, some fiber is lost to scrap or waste, Frey says. In opening and cleaning, for example, 4 to 8 percent of the fiber is lost; up to 1 percent is lost during drawing and roving; and up to 20 percent during combing and yarn production.

The research is supported by the New York State College of Human Ecology at Cornell.

Susan S. Lang | Cornell News
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Custom sequences for polymers using visible light
22.03.2018 | Tokyo Metropolitan University

nachricht The search for dark matter widens
21.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>