Creating Novel Functional Cottons

Creating Novel Functional Cottons

Incorporation of biological molecules to cotton may lead to novel functional cottons.

Finding value-added applications for cotton and enabling it to be wearable smart textiles will be the next phase of research and development in the cotton sector. I am an advocate for developing functional cottons at the farm level, in addition to the industry focusing its efforts on yield and quality aspects.


A team of international scientists from Israel, Germany and Austria has used a biological approach to impart functionality to cotton. Their work has been reported in the September 15 edition of Science, a journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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.

The authors claim that this approach could be adopted to other fibers such as flax and bamboo.

This work would be really useful for the cotton industry, if such efforts translate to the farm level to develop functional fibers directly from plants.