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Sounding out cotton quality.

Many cotton dealers still judge the quality of raw cotton by touch--feeling a clump of fibers to decide whether the cotton will be better used for rough fabric or fine clothing. Attempts to automate the grading process have been only partially successful. The best mechanical technique known is X-ray diffraction, but its use has been limited because the equipment is expensive and bulky. Instead, despite a relatively poor correlation between quality and special pattern, many companies now use optical difffraction techniques. Recent research shows that high-frequency sound waves may provided a better picture.

In a series of experiments, physicist Mack A. Breazeale of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville has shown that sound waves can be used in place of X-rays to characterize cotton fibers. In Breazeale's technique, a 1-megahertz burst of ultrasonic waves passes through a pad of cotton. Each fiber scatters the sound waves, and the resulting diffraction pattern depends on the fiber size, surface roughness and other fiber properties. "With as little of 0.36 gram of cotton, I can identify the type of cotton," says Breazeale.
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Title Annotation:high-frequency sound waves used to test the quality of raw cotton
Author:Peterson, Ivars
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 16, 1985
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