K. Ramachandran

Innovation, the need of the hour in textiles

INDIAN TEXTILE industry needs to get more proactive and create new value-added products using non-wovens, nano and new materials, to face up to the growing competition from China, says Seshadri Ramkumar, scientist and assistant professor at the Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

"Today, India may think it is doing fine in commercial textiles, but a lot of innovations is taking place in natural and man-made fibre technologies, use of non-wovens and nanotechnology materials that make textiles more efficient. Indian industry is not investing in these technologies and not creating the curriculum in textile technology and materials sciences education," says this researcher whose Institute of Environmental and Human Health created a non-woven multi-layered fabric that meets the need of protecting military and emergency personnel from exposure to chemical and biological agents.

New types of smart textiles are finding increasing applications in medicine, drug delivery, defence and automobile sectors. New and nano materials are used for creating new types of textiles that can be used as wound dressings, or artificial skins or materials that do targeted drug delivery on the human body.

For example, he points to the multi-layered fabric created at his lab back in Lubbock. It directly feeds to the requirements of the U.S. Department of Defence that was looking for decontamination wipes to remove chemical or biological agents.

Between two layers of specific cotton fabrics is placed an activated carbon layer, which has no particulate matter. This remedies contamination on surfaces caused by these agents.

This is the kind of emerging area which Indian industry needs to invest in terms of technology and machinery to keep pace with global competition in non-wovens and technical textiles and advances in fibrous materials, he says. "Texas Tech University and organisations such as the INDA-Association of the Non Woven Fabrics Industry, which has the backing of people such as Warren Buffett can provide the curriculum support and conduct workshop for teachers if such a course can be created in Tamil Nadu," he notes. Dr. Ramkumar can be reached at s.ramkumar@ttu.edu