Cotton as Strong as Steel? Maybe Someday
Swiss and US university research teams are using cotton fiber as the foundation for a novel nano cloth
Content courtesy of ETH-Zurich, CH
A team of American and Chinese researchers, led by ETH Zurich Professor Brad Nelson and University of South Carolina Professor Xiaodong Li, recently published a paper in which they presented a new method that uses an ordinary cotton T-shirt as the raw material to make a tough, hard but flexible cloth.
To create the new material, strips of cotton shirts were dipped into a boron solution enriched with nickel, then exposed to high furnace heat. At such high temperature and under an inflow of argon, a furry coat of boron carbide nanofibres forms on the cotton microfibres, allowing the fibrils to be extremely elastic and flexible.
Through tests of individual nanofibres conducted in the lab, the boron carbide nanofibres display the strength and rigidity of solid boron carbide. Overall, the fabric itself remains light-weight and flexible like the cotton t-shirt, but at the same time it is also tougher and more rigid at the nanoscale.