A research team at Australian Science Agency CSIRO is launching a type of cotton with properties similar to synthetic materials. The team first delved into factors that determined the length, strength and thickness of cotton fibres. This was done by growing a range of different cotton plants, some with long, thin fibres and others with short, woolly fibers.
The motivating force behind their work is the microfiber pollution caused by the washing of synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. These are not biodegradable and so can have a serious impact on waterways. The team is harnessing latest tools in synthetic biology to develop next generation cotton fibres. Synthetics may be cheaper to produce and require less ironing but people prefer natural fibres as these don’t crease much or can be stretched. As per CSIRO statistics, synthetics comprised around 77 per cent of global fiber market in 2015.