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Science Tuition Presents Ruth R. Benerito

Science Tuition Presents Ruth R. Benerito

Greetings welcome back to Science Tuition. With so many lesser-known facts about chemistry and the chemists, we are glad to impart some knowledge and help you learn more.

In this Science Tuition lesson, we are going to study about Ruth Mary Rogan Benerito and her invention.We assume you might not have come across this name yet but ever wondered who might have developed wash-and-wear cotton fabrics? Well, that is her. Ruth was born on January 12, 1916, and was an American chemist. She is popularly known for her work in the textile industry, and her significant work was the development of wash-and-wear fabric. She is admired in our chemistry world for her work relating to the use of mono-basic acid chlorides in the production of cotton which allows the clothes to be wrinkle-free and durable.

In the 1950s, Benerito’s research team discovered how to treat cotton fibers so that the chainlike cellulose molecules were chemically joined. At the time, chemists knew that cellulose molecules could stick to each other by way of hydrogen bonds, but hydrogen bonds are weak and easily broken, making cotton fabric prone to wrinkling. The new treatment strengthened the bonds between cellulose molecules by inserting short organic molecules between them rather like the rungs of a ladder. The new product was one enormous molecule with different properties from the original cellulose molecules. This crosslinking made cotton wrinkle resistant. After Benerito finds out the method of attaching organic chemicals to cotton fibers, all sorts of valuable properties like stain and flame resistance could be added to the fibers.

In the later years, Benerito started to teach classes part-time at Tulane and at the University of New Orleans. At the age of 86, she received the prestigious Lemelson MIT Lifetime Achievement Award for her work on textiles and her commitment to education.

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