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The missing thread in the textile story

K. RAMACHANDRAN

Where does India stand in creating value-added textile products using advanced technologies? Is its educational curriculum geared to meet the growing demands? Get the expert view.


Dr. Ramkumar can be reached at s.ramkumar@ttu.edu

Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

SMART FIND: Dr. Ramkumar displays the chemical and biological wipe created by his lab at Texas Tech University.

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 smarter and 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 chemical or biological agents, he notes.

The fabric is now ready for commercial mass production with licence given to an industry partner, Dr. Ramkumar adds.

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 notes. His other concern is the lack of a good curriculum in Indian universities to teach these technologies. "For now, non-wovens and new materials are learnt as electives in places such as Anna University. What we need now is at least one-taught M. Tech. programme in new textile materials. It can comprise courses in advanced materials, developments in non-woven textiles, medical textiles, nano science and applications in textile materials, and defence and protective materials. Today, virtual instrumentation is possible and so laboratory equipment need not be a big issue for universities.''"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.He is in Tamil Nadu to attend a conference on the subject organised by SSM College of Engineering, the Texas Tech, and sponsored by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, besides INDA. He will also be attending a course on `Nanoscience: technology and applications in textiles and materials' at PSG Tech's department of textile technology.

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