Cotton Based Material Could Yield Much Faster Chemical Screening

Researchers from Florida International University recently detailed a potentially revolutionary new method to test for the presence chemicals with the help of widely available cotton fabric.

FIU provost and executive vice president Kenneth Furton and chemist Abuzar Kabir said their system, called fabric phase sorptive extraction, uses a preparation material based on the muslin cotton ordinarily used to produce clothing.

When researchers applied unique sol-gel coatings to several cotton swatches and exposed them to liquid and air samples, contaminants were extracted in sufficient quantities within minutes.

Current tests rely on sophisticated equipment and solvents and can take days to complete; scientists said the new system could reduce the waiting time to a matter of hours.

“Today’s testing methods take significantly longer and are not as sensitive," Furton said in a statement. "When analysts are testing for illness, pollutants — or even controlled substances — time and accuracy are critical.”

The method absorbs more material than current systems — which improves results and reduces the chances of false negatives — and is more environmentally friendly since it doesn't require harsh solvents.

Researchers speculated that the technique could overhaul toxicological, biological and environmental sampling — a multi-billion-dollar industry. They particularly mentioned its implications for blood or urine tests or monitoring of drinking water.

"The power, simplicity and benefits of this new sample preparation technique are unprecedented,” Kabir said.