Enhancing Strength of Wool Fiber Using a Soy Flour Sugar-Based “Green” Cross-linker

2019-03-15T14:35:03Z (GMT) by Namrata V. Patil Anil N. Netravali
This study presents the preparation and use of a “green” cross-linker derived from a waste soy flour sugar (SFS) mixture to cross-link keratin in wool fibers to increase their tensile properties. Earlier studies of keratin cross-linking involved chemicals such as glyoxal and glutaraldehyde that are toxic to humans. In addition, their effectiveness in improving tensile properties has been significantly lower than obtained in this study using modified SFS. Characterization of SFS using <sup>13</sup>C NMR revealed the presence of five sugars having different molecular lengths. Oxidation of SFS using sodium periodate resulted in multiple aldehyde groups, as confirmed by <sup>1</sup>H NMR and attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared (ATR-FTIR). The oxidized SFS (OSFS) when used to cross-link the amine groups from the wool keratin resulted in 36 and 56% increase in the tensile strength and Young’s modulus of the fibers, respectively. These significant increases in strength and Young’s modulus were a result of having multiple aldehyde groups on each sugar molecule as well as different molecular lengths of sugars, which favored cross-links of multiple lengths within the cortical cell matrix of wool fibers. The cross-linking between the aldehyde groups in OSFS and amine groups in wool fibers was confirmed using ATR-FTIR and from the color change resulting from the Maillard reaction as well as decrease in moisture absorption by the fibers. Stronger wool fibers can not only increase the efficiencies of wool fiber spinning and weaving and reduce yarn and fabric defects but can also allow spinning finer yarns from the same fibers. Oxidized sugars with optimum molecular lengths can be used to cross-link other biological proteins as well, replacing the currently used toxic cross-linkers.