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Cotton Offers Potential To Save Lives

April 8, 2005

Scientists at Texas Tech University's Institute of Environmental and Human Health have unveiled a new composite nonwoven cotton fabric they say will protect against biological and chemical agents. The fabric, developed with the U.S. Department of Defense in mind, also brings a fresh market to cotton farmers in West Texas, the nation's largest producing region. "We are the first to bring cotton into the national defense arena," said Seshadri Ramkumar, the researcher at the institute who developed the fabric.

"This is a big thing."

The nonwoven fabric is "exactly" the type the defense department placed in its decontamination and science technology strategy, he said. A thin piece of carbon is encased on either side by the nonwoven cotton. The fabric can be used as a wipe to remove dangerous contaminants from a variety of surfaces, including human skin and intricate equipment on fighter planes. The fabric is lightweight, soft, flexible and can be draped over unusually shaped objects. The fabric passed tests for bacteria, yeast, fungus and mold but has not been tested for anthrax and other potentially deadly biological agents. But enzymes specifically targeting a particular agent can be applied.

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