Wool was modified by treatment with tannic acid (TA) or by acylation with ethylenediaminetetraacetic (EDTA) dianhydride. Kinetics of modification with TA and acylation with EDTA–dianhydride was investigated as a function of the reaction time. Wool displayed a higher breaking load and lower elongation at break as the degree of acylation increased. The absorption of metal cations (Ag+, Cu2+) by untreated and chemically modified wool was studied as a function of the kind of modifying agent, weight gain, and pH of the metal solution. Absorption of Ag+ and Cu2+ at alkaline pH increased with increasing weight gain of both TA and EDTA–dianhydride. The absorption of metal cations by untreated and TA-treated wool below pH 7 was negligible. Acylation with EDTA–dianhydride enabled wool to absorb and bind significant amounts of metal cations at acidic and neutral pHs. The wool–Ag complexes exhibited low levels of metal desorption at acidic pH, irrespective of chemical modification. Higher levels of metal desorption were shown by wool–Cu and wool–EDTA–Cu complexes. Wool–Ag complexes exhibited prominent antimicrobial activity against Cornebacterium and E. coli. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 82: 3513–3519, 2001
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