Indian American scientists design bamboo-based fabrics

April 7th, 2008 - 11:51 am ICT by admin  

New York, April 7 (IANS) As “sustainable” become the new global buzzword among ethical dressers, it is boom time for eco-friendly bamboo-based fabrics.` And now giving such fabric the extra edge are Indian American chemists Subhash Appidi and Ajoy Sarkar of Colorado State University.

They have discovered a way of making bamboo fabric - the current leading option in the “ethically produced” clothing market - that is not only resistant to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation but also has anti-bacterial properties.

Raw bamboo fabric lets damaging UV radiation pass through and reach the skin. And while many tout bamboo’s inherent anti-bacterial properties, Appidi found that untreated bamboo fabric did not live up to anti-microbial expectations.

“All cellulose fibres allow more moisture to leak in and provide more food for bacteria to eat. That’s why bacteria grow more on natural fibres rather than synthetic fibres,” said Appidi.

Bacteria can lead to unpleasant odours and unsanitary clothing, noted the chemist, who has ambitions of creating bacteria-free bamboo garments for use in hospitals.

The duo, who presented their new and improved fabric at a meeting of the American Chemical Society Sunday, said they increased the UV-protecting abilities of fabric by colouring pieces of commercially-available bamboo cloth in a dye laced with UV absorbing chemicals.

After finding the optimal concentration of absorbing chemicals, they tested UV protection levels.

Their results showed a 75 to 80 percent bacterial reduction, a significant improvement over untreated bamboo fabric. There was also a profound increase in UV protection.

In terms of “ultraviolet protection factor”, any value of over 50 is deemed safe against UV rays. Appidi said the treated fabric almost reached 56.

More research may get Appidi’s bamboo fabric into hospitals - and eventually retail outlets. He is investigating other antibacterial agents that may help him attain a 99 percent bacterial reduction in bamboo fabric.

Insight into the effect of multiple laundry cycles is also necessary, though preliminary findings suggest that the UV and microbial protection remain after washing.

Widely available in India, Japan, China and other countries, bamboo fabric is soft, durable and elastic. It hangs as gracefully as silk, and has an attractive, lustrous sheen.

An additional advantage is that bamboo is one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, reaching maturity in about four years, compared to 25 to 70 years for most other commercial tree species.

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