The facility will allow researchers to study cotton fiber characteristics during the ginning process.
Out on the Texas High Plains a one-of-a-kind, cotton micro-gin has officially gone on-line just in time for harvesting season.
The custom-built ginning laboratory is located at Texas Tech University's Fiber & Biopolymer Research Institute (FBRI), a part of the Department of Plant and Soil Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. It is expected to help put the sprawling agricultural research center near the top of the nation's most sophisticated research gin facilities.
"This equipment gives us the ability to closely match ginning conditions that cotton fibers will experience in the real world, commercial ginning conditions,” said FBRI managing director Noureddine Abidi. "It gives us the ability to observe the actual performance that can be expected from a particular cotton when processed commercially.”
Texas Tech's FBRI micro-gin uses transparently sided, scaled-down versions of Georgia-based Lummus Corporation commercial cotton ginning equipment found in numerous gins across the South Plains and the state. Lummus is a leading supplier of machinery and replacement parts for the cotton-ginning industry.
In terms of specific features, Abidi said the micro-gin consists of cotton pre-cleaning equipment such as a hot air cleaner, stick machine and feeder, one 24-saw gin stand to separate the lint from the seeds and an air-jet lint cleaner followed by a single-stage lint cleaner to remove trash particles and contaminants from the lint. The equipment is fully automated and controlled by the same software program Lummus uses to control modern, full-size cotton gins.
In its current configuration, Abidi said the micro-gin is capable of processing more than 2,500 pounds of raw cotton per hour.
"We hope to be able to process between 75 to 100 cotton breeder's samples per day once the harvest season begins,” he said.
Abidi explained that the micro-gin serves two critical purposes – processing and ginning of cotton breeder/research samples for turnout and fiber quality testing; and to educate undergraduate and graduate students on the inner workings of the various machines via the equipment's clear siding.
"Both are valuable additions,” Abidi said. "We now have the ability to process cotton from a module in the field all the way to a piece of textile fabric and give detailed educational tours of all of the equipment in operation throughout the process.”
Looking ahead, FBRI leaders hope the micro-gin will be an asset to cotton breeders by helping them produce cottons that perform better than current varieties when processed through a commercial cotton gin.
"As the industry is moving in more quality-oriented directions, we must keep producing higher quality fibers to keep up with the demand,” Abidi said.
In addition to FBRI's new micro-gin, the facility has a smaller, 11-saw stand-alone cotton gin with no lint cleaning and a small roller gin for additional research and ginning capacity if needed. The ginning equipment gives Texas Tech agricultural researchers the capacity to process cotton samples from a single boll to a full-sized module if required.
Located 6 miles east of the main campus, the FBRI occupies 110,000 square feet of space, allowing Texas Tech researchers to conduct testing and evaluation from the raw fiber stage through the finished textile product. Facilities include a multimedia classroom and conference room, a biopolymer research laboratory, a cotton phenomics laboratory and a cotton processing laboratory for spinning and weaving.