cotton gin, machine for separating cotton fibers from the seeds. The charkha, used in India from antiquity, consists of two revolving wooden rollers through which the fibers are drawn, leaving the seeds. A similar gin was early used in the S United States for long-staple cotton. In the modern roller gin, rollers covered with rough leather draw out the fibers, which are cut off by a fixed knife pressed against the rollers. This type of gin cleans only about two bales per day, but it does not snarl or break the fibers. The saw gin, invented by the American inventor Eli Whitney in 1793 and patented in 1794, consisted of a toothed cylinder revolving against a grate that enclosed the seed cotton. The teeth caught the fibers, pulling them from the seeds; the fibers were then removed from the cylinder by a revolving brush. This device, especially suited to short- and medium-staple cotton, has been mechanized and is used in commercial plants that are also called gins, where the fiber is conveyed from farm wagon to baler by air suction. Such plants have one or more gin stands, each with a series of from 70 to 80 circular saws set on a shaft. The fibers, freed from dirt and hulls, are pulled through a grid by the saw teeth to remove the seeds. The fibers are removed from the saw teeth by a revolving brush or by a blast of air (in more modern plants) and are then carried by air blast or suction to a condenser and finally to the baling apparatus.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.