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COPENHAGEN – Researchers from the University of Copenhagen claim to have developed a novel, and surprisingly simple way to separate polyester–cotton blends using a mild solvent, heat, and the addition of a common salt used by bakers.

The scientists immersed polyester and cotton blended textile scraps in ethylene glycol, and then added ammonium carbonate – also known as hartshorn salt – which is widely used to leaven bread, and which was heated up to 160 degrees.

They found that cotton and polyester fibres separated out into distinct layers within the resulting solution and say the whole process should be scalable.

“The textile industry urgently requires a better solution to handle blended fabrics like polyester/cotton,” said Yang Yang, of the Jiwoong Lee group at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry, who was lead author of the study published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemical Engineering.

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