Cotton Fiber Properties and Moisture: Water of Imbibition

Cotton Fiber Properties and Moisture: Water of Imbibition

Rousselle, Marie-Alice


Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) is participating in a multi-year area-of-growth study of selected cotton cultivars. We report here preliminary moisture data (water of imbibition) on the cottons from the 2001 crop year, and compare them to maturity properties determined by image analysis and to micronaire.

The role of moisture in cotton properties and processing is undergoing renewed study. In a recent review spanning 70 years, Backe [2] described the important role that moisture plays in cotton fiber properties and characteristics. Topics included the effect of moisture on the properties of the bale after storage in a cotton warehouse and on processing performance when this cotton was subsequently used in the spinning mill. He also discussed the renewed interest in moisture restoration at the gin. Fiber strength is directly proportional to lint moisture [5]. Correction of strength for moisture content improves the reproducibility of strength measurements [4J. Ginning cotton at the recommended moisture content range improves measures of length, length uniformity ratio, fiber strength, yarn strength and break factor, and yarn appearance [7]. On the other hand, processing at lower moisture levels improves cleaning efficiency but reduces actual yarn quality because the short-fiber content increases [1].

Little is known about any cultivar-dependent effect on the moisture uptake of cotton or about the interaction of cultivar with area-of-growth. We are beginning moisture profiling studies with a group of cottons available from a 5-year study (American Textile Manufacturers Institute Cotton Variety Processing Trials) that will document the effect of cultivar and area-of-growth on fiber and yarn properties and on the processing performance of cotton fibers. One impetus of that study is to determine the suitability of modern cottons for high-performance spinning. New technologies put additional stresses on cotton, and to better understand the relationships between spinning performance and fiber quality, a wide variety of fiber properties will be monitored. Researchers at the Cotton Quality Research Station (Clemson, SC) and Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) will be compiling a database of fiber, yarn, and fabric properties and processing performance in spinning and weaving for selected cotton cultivars grown in Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi. The study began with the 2001 crop year, with future specimens to be obtained from the 2002-2005 crop years. The Cotton Structure and Quality research unit of SRRC will compile moisture profiles of the cottons, including a variety of moisture-response data. We report here preliminary data on water of imbibition for cotton from the 2001 crop year, and compare those data to maturity, perimeter, thickness, and wall area determined by image analysis, and to micronaire.


Materials: Table I lists the cultivars grown in West Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi, including Paymaster (PM), Fibermax (FM), Deltapine (DPL), Phytogen PSC (PSC), and Suregrow (SG). FM-832 and FM-966 were grown in all three states. Other cultivars typical of the region were included in each of the states. Cultivars were selected by William R. Meridith Jr., ARS Crop Genetics & Prod. Research, Stoneville, MS.

Methods: Maturity, perimeter, wall thickness, wall area, and lumen area of the 2001 cottons were measured by image analysis, and micronaire was measured with the Micromat fineness/maturity tester (F/MT) as previously reported [9]. Water of imbibition was determined by a modification [3] of the method of WeIo [10], with an additional modification to ensure complete wetting-out of the raw fibers. Briefly, cotton fiber specimens were heated for 5 minutes in distilled water at 100°C, soaked overnight, centrifuged at 4194 g, and weighed in glass weighing bottles, and the moisture content (dry basis) of the specimens was determined after oven-drying at 110°C.

Results and Discussion

Maturity measured by image analysis (M^sub IA^) (Table I) varied from a low of θ = 0.42 for the PM-2200 cultivar grown in Texas to a high of θ = 0.60 for the PM-ms cultivar grown in Mississippi; perimeter (P^sub IA^) ranged from 46.66 µm for variety FM-S 19 grown in Texas to a high of 58.02 µm for variety DPL-491 grown in Mississippi; thickness (T^sub IA^) varied from 1.99 µm for variety PM-2200 grown in Texas to a high of 3.27 µm for variety PM-1218 grown in Mississippi; wall area (WAIA) ranged from a low of 93.60 µm^sup 2^ for FM-819 grown in Texas to a high of 148.25 µm^sup 2^ for PM-1218 grown in Mississippi. Micronaire (M^sub F/MT^) ranged from a low of 2.8 for FM-832 grown in Texas to a high of 5.6 for PM-1218 grown in Mississippi. Lumen area (LAM) covered a range from a low of 10.53 µm^sup 2^ for the GA FM-966 cotton to a high of 19.91 µm^sup 2^ for the GA PHY-SSS cotton. These data demonstrate that the samples provide a range of parameters related to maturity, cell-wall development, and fineness. In both maturity parameters and micronaire, the cottons ranked in maturity in the order MS > GA > TX.

We determined water of imbibition (WOI) (Table I) for three randomized sets of samples, each sample run twice with six replicates in each set. WOI measures water that is retained after boiling, soaking, and centrifugation under specified conditions, and measures water that is within cell walls, in interfiber spaces, or in pores. Weights of the moist cotton and dry cotton are both measured after boiling and soaking in water, and reflect the imbibition of water by water-extracted cotton fibers.

Samples from Texas had the highest values of water of imbibition and samples from Mississippi the lowest values, with WOI values for samples from Georgia falling in between.

For the cottons grown in Mississippi, there was a narrow range of woi, from 41.32 to 43.36% (range of 2.04%), with no correlation to maturity, perimeter, thickness, wall area, lumen area, or micronaire. Cottons grown in Georgia had a similar range of woi, from 42.98 to 45.20% (range of 2.22%), with slightly higher woi values, again with no correlation to the physical properties. Cotton grown in Texas had the widest range of woi, 43.22 to 51.97%, for a range of 8.75%, with little if any correlation to physical properties.

As noted, the woi values for the three states overall were TX > GA > MS, and the cottons grown in Texas were the least mature. The woi values were highest for these immature cottons. For the two cultivars grown in each of the three states (FM-832 and FM-966), the ranking was the same, with woi values again in the order TX > GA > MS.

Pooled date for the three areas (Figure 1) indicated an overall moderate inverse correlation of woi with micronaire, wall thickness, and wall area, a low inverse correlation with maturity, and no correlation with perimeter and lumen area.

There is an inverse relationship between the maturity parameters and woi. One possible explanation might be that the primary wall has a looser, more open arrangement of microfibrils [8, 6] than secondary wall. The presence of a higher proportion of primary wall in the immature fibers could then cause immature cotton to imbibe more water.

These preliminary data, using only one moisture parameter (water of imbibition), demonstrate an effect of immaturity on moisture sorption across a selection of cultivars. Because of the immaturity of the Texas cottons, it is not possible to determine whether the high wot values of those cottons are due only to immaturity, or if there is also an effect of area-of-growth or cultivar. We will more fully explore these relationships through other moisture assays, and through comparison with a wider range of fiber and yarn properties and processing performance over the full 5-year crop-year span of the study.


We are grateful to Chauncy Williams Jr. for WOI determinations, Jeannine S. Moraitis for image analysis determinations, and Terri Von Hoven for micronaire measurements.

Literature Cited

1. Anthony, W.S., Postharvest Management of Fiber Quality, in “Cotton Fibers: Developmental Biology, Quality Improvement, and Textile Processing,” A.S. Basra, Ed., Food Products Press, Haworth Press, NY, 1999.

2. Backe, E.E., “Cotton Moisture: Harvesting through Textile Processing,” Institute of Textile Technology, Charlottesville, VA, 2002.

3. Bertoniere, N.R., and Rowland, S.P., Spreading and Imbibition of Durable Press Reagent Solutions in Cotton-Containing Fabrics, Textile Res. J. 55, 57-64 1985.

4. Byler, R.K., Anthony, W.S., Beaton, P.P., Ramey, H.H., and Boyd, J., HVI Strength Correction for Measured Moisture Content: Testing, in “Proc. Beltwide Cotton Prod. Conf.,” National Cotton Council of America, Memphis TN, 1994, pp. 1426-1428.

5. Byler, R.K., Anthony, W.S., and Ramey, H.H., Moisture Effects on Strength Measurement at the Classing Office, in “Proc. Beltwide Cotton Prod. Conf.,” National Cotton Council of America, Memphis TN, 1993, pp. 1099-1100.

6. Dinand, E., Vignon, M., Chanzy, H., and Heux, L., Mercerization of Primary Wall Cellulose and Its Implication for the Conversion of Cellulose I -» Cellulose II, Cellulose 9, 7-18 2002.

7. Hughs, S.E., Moisture: The Key to Fiber Quality, in “Proc. Beltwide Cotton Prod Res. Conf.,” National Cotton Council of America, Memphis TN, 1985, pp. 312-314.

8. Roelofsen, P.A., “The Plant Cell-Wall, Gegruder Borntraeger,” Berline-Nikolassee, 1959, pp. 126-189.

9. Thibodeaux, O.P., Montalvo, J. Jr., and Davidonis, G., Effects of Location on Distribution of Fiber Quality, in “Proc. Beltwide Cotton Conferences,” Nashville TN, 2003, pp. 2580-2588.

10. WeIo, H.M., Ziffle, H.M., and McDonald, A.W., Swelling Capacities of Fibers, Part II: Centrifuge Studies, Textile Res. J. 22, 261-271 1952.

Manuscript received January 26, 2004; accepted March 9, 2004.


USDA, ARS, Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana 70124, U.S.A.

Copyright Textile Research Institute Feb 2005

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