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Newsline-International | July 2016

Sustainability efforts pay dividends

Sustainable textile processing research has been undertaken way back in the 1980s and has led to significant cost savings in the textile industry.

Professor Fred L Cook, who has recently retired from fulltime teaching at Atlanta, Georgia-based Georgia Institute of Technology after four decades of distinguished career there, highlighted some of his key research accomplishments in energy savings and materials conservation in the 2015 Olney Medal address at this year’s international conference of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) in Williamsburg, Virginia. There were over 250 people in attendance at the international event.

Olney Medal, awarded by AATCC was established in the year 1944 is the highest research award in the field for lifetime work in textiles and polymer chemistry. The medal for the year 2015 was awarded to Professor Fred Cook for his four decades of research in sustainable textile processing.

While sustainability has become a new paradigm in manufacturing these days, Fred Cook has looked into this aspect for enhancing the profitability of the textile industry way back in the early eighties. In 1982, Cook and his colleagues published their work on single step (desizing-scouring-bleaching) process for cotton blends. That work not only showed technical progress but also showcased Cook’s effort to translate the laboratory research from academia to practice.

Professor Cook’s research has been model for mission linked research and industry collaborations, which were pioneering efforts some thirty years ago. Collaborations with industries such as Southern Mills and Shaw Industries have led to projects such as waterless dyeing of nomex, efficient printing process for nomex fabrics, acid dyeing of nylon carpets, etc.

Apart from his efforts in engaging with industries, another hallmark of his research has been to utilise technologies in other fields for the benefit of the textile sector. He and research student Kishor Gupta used vacuum flash evaporation technique to recover and reuse PVA, a common sizing chemical used in the industry. This technique results in zero liquid discharge and is cost effective.

Professor Cook has not only contributed to the research and development in the textiles field, but has also helped many to spread their wings in the field, including this scribe, who had the opportunity to first meet Professor Cook on a boat ride in Switzerland some twenty year’s back during an international event sponsored by the leading spinning machinery company, Rieter Group.

By: Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA

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