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Spinning Clay into Cotton

You're probably not allowed to wear your pajamas when you play in the dirt. Someday, though, the clothes you wear to bed may be made partly out of clay.Before you go to bed tonight, read the label in your pajamas. Chances are, you'll find that they're not made of cotton. The problem is that cotton burns easily. Parents don't want to dress their kids in pajamas that can catch fire. But most people like to wear cotton clothes. Cotton is soft and feels good on your skin. Air flows through it easily, which helps keep you cool when the weather is warm. Now, researchers from the Agricultural Research Service's Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans may have found a way to use clay to make cotton more resistant to heat. The scientists dissolved tiny bits of cotton in a liquid and added microscopic particles of clay. Then, they spun fibers out of the solution that were 93 percent cotton and 7 percent clay. Tests in a special heat chamber showed that the clay-enhanced cotton was more resistant to heat than untreated cotton. When heated, the treated fibers formed a layer of char on their surfaces. In a fire, the char coating would keep oxygen out of the fibers. Without oxygen, flames can't erupt. The researchers are now starting to weave cloth from their clay-cotton fibers. They can then test the new material to see if it's less flammable than ordinary cotton cloth. Watch out. Clay-boosted pajamas may someday be headed to your slumber party!—E. Sohn

Spinning Clay into Cotton
Spinning Clay into Cotton

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