Conversion of recycled cotton into high performance barrier film

Physical Sciences : Materials and Compounds

Available for licensing


  • Jonathan Chen, Ph.D. , School of Human Ecology; (also) Dept. of Textiles & Apparel

Background/unmet need

In today’s food packaging market, development of low-carbon-footprint, high-barrier film materials in place of foil is increasingly needed. Current polymer-based film products like EVOH, PVOH, and MXD6 nylon deliver high oxygen barrier, but have poor moisture barrier. In contrast, metalized films offer competitive barrier performance but are still opaque like foil. It is reported that the cellulose film made of NaClO-oxidized cellulose nanofiber (NOCN) exhibits excellent oxygen barrier properties. With a similar crystalline structure to kraft wood cellulose, recycled cotton can also be used to produce NOCN for this application. The purpose of developing this technology for performance film production is to improve cotton recycling efficiency and make it more attractive and profitable. Thus, the sustainability of cotton industry would be enhanced.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found an approach for converting recycled cotton fiber into nanofiber film with high performance of oxygen and moisture barriers. Recycled cotton fabrics like blue jeans or bath towels are raw materials. Specific nanoparticles are used to achieve moisture barrier performance.


    Current research on fabrication of NOCN film materials mostly uses wood pulp as a raw material. The conversion of raw wood cellulose to pulp requires a pulping process that results in negative environmental impact. In contrast, recycled cotton is a type of highly pure cellulose biomass. Utilization of this biomass to produce high-performance film products is an eco-friendly approach for the film material manufacturing that not only provides a business solution for recycling cotton textiles and apparels, but also helps lower carbon footprint for the production of packaging barrier films. In particular, color of recycled cotton is automatically removed during the NaClO oxidation. No individual process of bleaching is needed for recycled cotton.


  • The NOCN film is hydrophilic in nature, thus resulting in a low resistance to moisture permeability. To solve this problem, the developed technology uses a nanoparticle technology to improve hydrophobicity of the NOCN film.
  • A thorough dispersion of nanoparticle in the water-based solution can be easily achieved. 

Market potential/applications

Cotton Incorporated industries
Packaging industries

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed