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Photo: Bcomp
22.11.2022

Made in Switzerland: Is Flax the New Carbon?

  • Bcomp wins BMW Group Supplier Innovation Award in the category “Newcomer of the Year”

The sixth BMW Group Supplier Innovation Awards were presented at the BMW Welt in Munich on 17 November 2022. The coveted award was presented in a total of six categories: powertrain & e-mobility, sustainability, digitalisation, customer experience, newcomer of the year and exceptional team performance.

Bcomp won the BMW Group Supplier Innovation Award in the Newcomer of the Year category. Following a successful collaboration with BMW M Motorsport for the new BMW M4 GT4 that extensively uses Bcomp’s powerRibs™ and ampliTex™ natural fibre solutions and BMW iVentures recently taking a stake in Bcomp as lead investor in the Series B round, this award is another major step and recognition on the path to decarbonizing mobility.

  • Bcomp wins BMW Group Supplier Innovation Award in the category “Newcomer of the Year”

The sixth BMW Group Supplier Innovation Awards were presented at the BMW Welt in Munich on 17 November 2022. The coveted award was presented in a total of six categories: powertrain & e-mobility, sustainability, digitalisation, customer experience, newcomer of the year and exceptional team performance.

Bcomp won the BMW Group Supplier Innovation Award in the Newcomer of the Year category. Following a successful collaboration with BMW M Motorsport for the new BMW M4 GT4 that extensively uses Bcomp’s powerRibs™ and ampliTex™ natural fibre solutions and BMW iVentures recently taking a stake in Bcomp as lead investor in the Series B round, this award is another major step and recognition on the path to decarbonizing mobility.

“Innovations are key to the success of our transformation towards electromobility, digitalisation and sustainability. Our award ceremony recognises innovation and cooperative partnership with our suppliers – especially in challenging times,” said Joachim Post, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Purchasing and Supplier Network at the ceremony held at BMW Welt in Munich.

BMW first started to work with Bcomp’s materials in 2019 when they used high-performance natural fibre composites in the BMW iFE.20 Formula E car. From this flax fibre reinforced cooling shaft, the collaboration evolved and soon after, the proprietary ampliTex™ and powerRibs™ natural fibre solutions were found successfully substituting selected carbon fibre components in DTM touring cars from BMW M Motorsport. By trickling down and expanding into other vehicle programs, such developments highlight the vital role that BMW M Motorsports plays as a technology lab for the entire BMW Group. This continues in the form of the latest collaboration with Bcomp to include a higher proportion of renewable raw materials in the successor of the BMW M4 GT4.

With the launch of the new BMW M4 GT4, it will be the serial GT car with the highest proportion of natural fibre components. Bcomp’s ampliTex™ and powerRibs™ flax fibre solutions can be found throughout the interior on the dashboard and centre console, as well as on bodywork components such as the hood, front splitter, doors, trunk, and rear wing. Aside from the roof, there are almost no carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) components that were not replaced by the renewable high-performance flax materials. “Product sustainability is increasing in importance in the world of motorsport too,” says Franciscus van Meel, Chairman of the Board of Management at BMW M GmbH.

Bcomp is a leading solutions provider for natural fibre reinforcements in high performance applications from race to space.

The company started as a garage project in 2011 with a mission to create lightweight yet high performance skis. The bCores™ were launched and successfully adopted by some of the biggest names in freeride skiing. The founders, material science PhDs from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), used flax fibres to reinforce the balsa cores and improve shear stiffness. Impressed by the excellent mechanical properties of flax fibres, the development to create sustainable lightweighting solutions for the wider mobility markets started.

Flax is an indigenous plant that grows naturally in Europe and has been part of the agricultural history for centuries. It requires very little water and nutrients to grow successfully. In addition, it acts as a rotational crop, thus enhancing harvests on existing farmland. Neither cultivation nor processing of the flax plants requires any chemicals that could contaminate ground water and harvesting is a completely mechanical process. After harvesting the entire flax plant can be used for feed, to make oil and its fibres are especially used for home textiles and clothing. The long fibre that comes from the flax plant possesses very good mechanical properties and outstanding damping properties in relation to its density, making it especially suited as a natural fibre reinforcement for all kinds of polymers.

The harvesting and processing of flax takes place locally in the rural areas it was grown in. Using European flax sourced through a well-established and transparent supply chain it allows to support the economic and social structure in rural areas thanks to the large and skilled workforce required to sustain the flax production. When it comes to the production of technical products like the powerRibs™ reinforcement grid, Bcomp is investing in local production capacities close to its headquarters in the city of Fribourg, Switzerland, thus creating new jobs and maintaining technical know-how in the area. The production is built to be as efficient as possible and with minimal environmental impact and waste.

Further strengthening the local economy, Bcomp aims to hire local companies for missions and with the headquarters being located in Fribourg’s “Blue Factory” district, Bcomp can both benefit from and contribute to the development of this sustainable and diverse quarter.

Source:

Bcomp; BMW Group

© ITM/TUD - Biomimetic fish fin with dielectric elastomer actors und fiber reinforcement.
08.11.2022

Funding for Fibre-Elastomer Composites: Intelligent materials for robotics and prostheses

  • Successful approval of the 2nd funding period of the DFG Research Training Group 2430 "Interactive fibre-elastomer composites"

Researchers based in Dresden are going to develop a completely new class of materials in which actuators and sensors are integrated directly into flexible fibre composites – contrary to the state of the art. To this end, the German Research Foundation (DFG) approved the 2nd phase of Research Training Group 2430 "Interactive Fibre-Elastomer Composites" at TU Dresden in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden. The spokesperson is Professor Chokri Cherif from the Institute for Textile Machinery and High-Performance Textile Materials Technology (ITM) at TU Dresden. A total of 22 doctoral students will be supported in eleven interdisciplinary sub-projects over the next 4.5 years, in addition to material and project funding.
 

  • Successful approval of the 2nd funding period of the DFG Research Training Group 2430 "Interactive fibre-elastomer composites"

Researchers based in Dresden are going to develop a completely new class of materials in which actuators and sensors are integrated directly into flexible fibre composites – contrary to the state of the art. To this end, the German Research Foundation (DFG) approved the 2nd phase of Research Training Group 2430 "Interactive Fibre-Elastomer Composites" at TU Dresden in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden. The spokesperson is Professor Chokri Cherif from the Institute for Textile Machinery and High-Performance Textile Materials Technology (ITM) at TU Dresden. A total of 22 doctoral students will be supported in eleven interdisciplinary sub-projects over the next 4.5 years, in addition to material and project funding.
 
As a result the simulation-based development of intelligent material combinations for so-called self-sufficient fibre composites shall be available. Actuators and sensors are already integrated into the structures and no longer placed subsequently, as it is actual the case. In the first funding phase, the important basis for the large two-dimensional deformations in soft, biomimetic structures were developed. The further funding by the DFG is a confirmation of the outstanding results achieved so far. Building on this, the second funding phase will focus on ionic and helical actuator-sensor concepts. Combined with intelligent design and control algorithms, self-sufficient, three-dimensionally deforming material systems will emerge. This will make these systems more robust, complex preforming patterns can be customised at the desired location - reversibly and contact-free.
 
Fibre composites are used increasingly in moving components due to their high specific stiffness and strengths as well as the possibility of tailoring these properties. By integrating adaptive functions into such materials, the need for subsequent actuator placement is eliminated and the robustness of the system is significantly improved. Actuators and sensors based on textiles, such as those being researched and developed at the ITM, are particularly promising in this respect, as they can be integrated directly into the fibre composites during the manufacturing process.

With their innovative properties, interactive fibre-elastomer composites are predestined for numerous fields of application in mechanical and vehicle engineering, robotics, architecture, orthotics and prosthetics: Examples include systems for precise gripping and transport processes (e.g. in hand prostheses, closures and deformable membranes) and components (e.g. trim tabs for land and water vehicles).

More information:
robot Fibers Composites Funding
Source:

TU Dresden: Institute for Textile Machinery and High Performance Textile Materials (ITM)

Photo: Performance Days
18.10.2022

Eco Award & Performance Award for innovative winter fabrics 24/25

  • Jury presents two awards for outstanding fabric Innovation

The next PERFORMANCE DAYS will take place from November 3-4, 2022 at the MOC Ordercenter in Munich. Visitors also have the opportunity to follow the events online. Thanks to the new platform The Loop, all important information is available all year round, including current trends, new material innovations and extended tools for ease of use. The focus of the curated PERFORMANCE FORUM continues in winter honoring the winners of both awards. This year, in addition to a PERFORMANCE AWARD, the jury also presented an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD.

  • Jury presents two awards for outstanding fabric Innovation

The next PERFORMANCE DAYS will take place from November 3-4, 2022 at the MOC Ordercenter in Munich. Visitors also have the opportunity to follow the events online. Thanks to the new platform The Loop, all important information is available all year round, including current trends, new material innovations and extended tools for ease of use. The focus of the curated PERFORMANCE FORUM continues in winter honoring the winners of both awards. This year, in addition to a PERFORMANCE AWARD, the jury also presented an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD.

Sustainable & innovative: the award winners of the Winter 2024/25 season
As part of the winter edition of the sourcing fairs, the fabric highlights plus accessory trends in the individ-ual categories for the winter season 2024/25 will be on display at the PERFORMANCE FORUM.
 
Particularly striking this year was the high levels of innovation and quality of many submitted fabrics on the one hand, but on the other hand – also as a result of this year’s Focus Topic – the sustainable component. “We wish to enable our visitors to make the best decision in terms of material selection, also in terms of CO2 neutrality and ultimately also in terms of textile recyclability,” states Marco Weichert, CEO of PERFORMANCE DAYS.  

Nevertheless, the road to CO2 neutrality remains a long one, yet the approaches adopted with the Focus Topic ongoing until the coming spring can be seen in a positive light. In general, manufacturers are increasingly relying on the use of natural fibers when possible, such as Tencel™ or other plant fibers – most of them also prove a low CO2 balance during production. The issue of recycling comes with many new facets and wide spanning trends. The portfolio ranges from the recycling of marine waste, such as old buoys, plastic waste or fishing nets, to the recycling of waste from the automotive and computer industries, such as old car tires or computer chips. Natural dyeing methods are also gaining in importance, as is the return of fabrics to the textile cycle.

In the Marketplace, visitors have the opportunity to view over 19,000 products from exhibitors, including the fabric highlights of the individual categories at the PERFORMANCE FORUM. In order for visitors to experience the fabrics in terms of haptics, design and structure in as realistic a form as possible, the PERFORMANCE FORUM has been equipped with innovative 3D technology, including innovative tools such as 3D images, video animations and U3MA data for download.

The jury has also presented two awards for outstanding fabrics for the Winter Season 2024/25 – with the PERFORMANCE AWARD going to Long Advance Int. Co Ltd., and the ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD to PontetortoSpa.

The ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD goes to “9203/M/RC” from PontetortoSpa: High Performance despite maximum sustainability
The fabric is a blend of 23 % hemp, 69 % recycled polyester and 9 % recycled elastane. Moreover, the material boasts a low CO2 footprint during production and focuses on low release levels of microplastics into the environment. “9203/M/RC” belongs to Pontetorto's Techno Stretch organic series, which boast an excellent 4-way stretch with great elasticity. In addition, it guarantees fast drying and optimal breathability. The polyester yarn is manufactured by the mechanical recycling of plastic bottles. Hemp, the most water–repellent among natural fibers, allows for quick drying and provides optimal comfort. Hemp is considered an extremely sustainable natural fiber due to its origin from an anti–bacterial plant that requires neither pesticides nor chemical fertilizers during its growth and consumes extremely little water.

PERFORMANCE AWARD for “LPD-22015-Y4E” from Long Advanced Int. Co. Ltd.: Perfect recycling for top performance
The monocomponent 2layer fabric is a mixture of 45 % polyester mechanical stretch and 55 % recycled polyester from recycled textiles, laminated with a PET Membrane, with a weight of 147 grams.
The special feature of the “LPD 22015-Y4E” is the recycling of fabric and cutting waste. Waste is thus returned to the textile cycle and used to spin new yarn. In the future, manufacturers will have to ensure that all fabric can be recycled. Accordingly, the production of waste is then reduced by 30 % compared to conventional processes. Furthermore, the jury praised the feel and the extraordinary look of the material.

The entire PERFORMANCE FORUM including both awards can be experienced live at the fair on October 26-27, 2022 in Portland, Oregon, and in Munich at the PERFORMANCE DAYS fair on November 03-04, 2022. As of now, all innovative materials can also be found online in the Marketplace of the PERFORMANCE DAYS Loop, with the option to order free samples directly from the exhibitor.

First tests with free-form tiles made of wood short fiber filament. (Photo: LZH) Photo: LZH. First tests with free-form tiles made of wood short fiber filament.
19.09.2022

Sustainability in 3D Printing: Components made of Natural Fibers

3D printing has been in use in architecture for a while, and now it is to become ecologically sustainable as well: Together with partners, the LZH is researching how to produce individual building elements from natural fibers using additive manufacturing.

3D printing has been in use in architecture for a while, and now it is to become ecologically sustainable as well: Together with partners, the LZH is researching how to produce individual building elements from natural fibers using additive manufacturing.

In the project 3DNaturDruck, architectural components such as facade elements shall be created from natural fiber-reinforced biopolymers in 3D printing. To this end, the scientists will develop the corresponding composite materials from biopolymers with both natural short fibers and natural continuous fibers and optimize them for processing with the additive manufacturing process FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). The project partners' goal is to enable smart and innovative designs that are both ecological and sustainable.
 
The goal: highly developed components made from sustainable materials
Within the project, different natural fiber-reinforced biopolymer composites will be investigated. The partners are researching both processing methods with very short natural fibers, such as from wood and straw, and a method for printing continuous fibers from hemp and flax in combination with biopolymers. The LZH then develops processes for these new materials and adapts the tools and nozzle geometries of the FDM printer. A pavilion with the 3D-printed facade elements is planned as a demonstrator on the campus of the University of Stuttgart.
 
The project partners want to explore how additive manufacturing can be used to simplify manufacturing processes for architectural components. Natural fiber-reinforced biopolymers are particularly suitable for producing components with complex geometries in just a few steps and with low material and cost requirements. With their research, the partners are also working on completely new starting conditions for the fabrication of newly developed architectural components: For example, the topology optimization of components according to their structural stress can be easily implemented with additive manufacturing.

Enabling the natural fiber trend in architecture also using additive manufacturing
There is great interest in the use of natural fibers in structural components in architecture and construction because natural fibers have several advantages. They have good mechanical properties combined with low weight and are widely available. As a renewable resource with in some cases very short renewal cycles, they are also clearly a better ecological alternative than synthetic fibers.

In additive manufacturing, large-format elements for the architectural sector have so far mostly been manufactured with polymers based on fossil raw materials. Research in the project 3DNaturDruck should now make the use of natural fibers in architecture possible for additive manufacturing as well.

About 3DNaturDruck
The project 3DNaturDruck is about the design and fabrication of 3D-printed components made of biocomposites using filaments with continuous and short natural fibers.

The project is coordinated by the Department of Biobased Materials and Materials Cycles in Architecture (BioMat) at the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart. In addition to the LZH, project partners include the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (WKI) and the industrial companies Rapid Prototyping Technologie GmbH (Gifhorn), ETS Extrusionstechnik (Mücheln), 3dk.berlin (Berlin) and ATMAT Sp. Z o.o. (Krakow, Poland).

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture through the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. under the funding code 2220NR295C.

Source:

Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

(c) MAI Carbon
24.05.2022

From waste to secondary raw material - wetlaid nonwovens made from recycled carbon fibers

MAI Scrap SeRO | From Scrap to Secondary Ressources – Highly Orientated Wet-Laid-Nonwovens from CFRP-Waste

The »Scrap SeRO« project is an international joint project in the field of »recycling of carbon fibers«.

The technical project goal is the demonstration of a continuous process route for processing pyrolytically recycled carbon fibers (rCF) in high-performance second-life component structures. In addition to the technological level, the focus of the project is particularly on the international transfer character, in the sense of a cross-cluster initiative between the top cluster MAI Carbon (Germany) and CVC (South Korea).

MAI Scrap SeRO | From Scrap to Secondary Ressources – Highly Orientated Wet-Laid-Nonwovens from CFRP-Waste

The »Scrap SeRO« project is an international joint project in the field of »recycling of carbon fibers«.

The technical project goal is the demonstration of a continuous process route for processing pyrolytically recycled carbon fibers (rCF) in high-performance second-life component structures. In addition to the technological level, the focus of the project is particularly on the international transfer character, in the sense of a cross-cluster initiative between the top cluster MAI Carbon (Germany) and CVC (South Korea).

Through direct cooperation between market-leading companies and research institutions of the participating cluster members, the technical project processing takes place in the context of the global challenge of recycling, as well as the need for increased resource efficiency, with reference to the economically strategic material carbon fibers.

Efficient processing of recycled carbon fibers
The technological process route within the project runs along the industrial wet-laying technology, which is comparable to classic paper production. This enables a robust production of high-quality rCF nonwovens, which are characterized, among other things, by particularly high homogeneity and stability of characteristic values.

A special development focus is on a specific process control, which allows the generation of an orientation of the individual fiber filaments in the nonwoven material.

The given preferred fiber direction of the discontinuous fiber structure opens up strong synergy effects in relation to increased packing densities, i.e. fiber volume content, as well as a significantly optimized processing behavior in relation to impregnation, forming and consolidation, in addition to a load path-oriented mechanics.

The innovative wetlaid nonwovens are then further processed into thermoset and thermoplastic semi-finished products, i.e. prepregs or organosheets, using impregnation processes that are suitable for large-scale production.

rCF tapes are produced from this in an intermediate slitting step. By means of automated fiber placement, load path-optimized preforms can be deposited, which are then consolidated into complex demonstrator components.

The process chain is monitored at key interfaces by innovative non-destructive measurement technology and supplemented by extensive characterization methods. Especially for the processing of pyrolysed recycled carbon fibers, which were recovered from end-of-life waste or PrePreg waste, for example, there are completely new potentials with significant added value compared to the current state of the art for the overall process route presented here.

International Transfer
The fundamentally global challenge of recycling and the striving for increased sustainability is strongly influenced by national recycling strategies as a result of country-specific framework conditions. The globalized way in which companies deal with high-volume material flows places additional demands on a functioning circular economy. A networked solution can only be created on the basis of and in compliance with the respective guidelines and structural factors.

In the case of the high-performance material carbon fiber, there is a particularly high technical requirement for an ecologically and economically viable recycling industry. At the same time, the specific market size already opens up interesting scaling effects and potential for market penetration.

The Scrap SeRO project connects two of the world's leading top clusters in the field of carbon composites from South Korea and Germany on the basis of a cross-cluster initiative. As part of this first promising technology project, the foundation stone for future cooperation is to be laid that supports the effective recycling of carbon fibers. The project makes an important contribution to closing the material cycle for carbon fibers and thus paves the way for renewed use in further life cycles of this high-quality and energy-intensive material.

Info »Scrap SeRO«

  • Duration: 05/2019 – 04/2022
  • Funding: BMBF
  • Funding Amount: 2.557.000 €

National Consortium

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV
  • ELG Carbon Fibre
  • J.M. Voith SE & Co. KG
  • Neenah Gessner
  • SURAGUS GmbH
  • LAMILUX Composites GmbH
  • Covestro Deutschland AG
  • BA Composites GmbH
  • SGL Carbon

International Consortium

  • KCarbon
  • Hyundai
  • Sangmyung University
  • TERA Engineering
Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV

(c) A3/Christian Strohmayr
10.05.2022

Fraunhofer reduces CO2 footprint and recycles trendy lightweight carbon material

Neo-ecology through innovative paper technology

To reduce the CO2 footprint, the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV Augsburg research with a state-of-the-art wetlaid nonwoven machine for recycling carbon fibers. The production processes are similar to those of a paper manufacturing machine. The crucial difference: we turn not paper fibers into the paper but recycled carbon fibers into nonwoven roll fabrics. The carbon fiber thus gets a second life and finds an environmentally friendly way in nonwovens, such as door panels, engine bonnets, roof structures, underbody protection (automotive), and heat shields (helicopter tail boom), as well as in aircraft interiors.

“Wetlaid technology for processing technical fibers is currently experiencing a revolution following centuries of papermaking tradition.”
Michael Sauer, Researcher at Fraunhofer IGCV

Neo-ecology through innovative paper technology

To reduce the CO2 footprint, the Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV Augsburg research with a state-of-the-art wetlaid nonwoven machine for recycling carbon fibers. The production processes are similar to those of a paper manufacturing machine. The crucial difference: we turn not paper fibers into the paper but recycled carbon fibers into nonwoven roll fabrics. The carbon fiber thus gets a second life and finds an environmentally friendly way in nonwovens, such as door panels, engine bonnets, roof structures, underbody protection (automotive), and heat shields (helicopter tail boom), as well as in aircraft interiors.

“Wetlaid technology for processing technical fibers is currently experiencing a revolution following centuries of papermaking tradition.”
Michael Sauer, Researcher at Fraunhofer IGCV

The wetlaid technology used is one of the oldest nonwoven forming processes (around 140 BC - 100 AD). As an essential industry sector with diverse fields of application, wetlaid nonwovens are no longer only found in the classic paper. Instead, the application areas extend, for example, from adhesive carrier films, and packaging material, to banknotes and their process-integrated watermarks and security features. In the future, particularly sustainable technology fields will be added around battery components, fuel cell elements, filtration layers, and even function-integrated material solutions, e.g., EMI shielding function.

Fraunhofer IGCV wetlaid nonwovens line is specifically designed as a pilot line. In principle, very different fiber materials such as natural, regenerated, and synthetic fibers can be processed, mainly recycled and technical fibers. The system offers the highest possible flexibility regarding material variants and process parameters. In addition, sufficiently high productivity is ensured to allow subsequent scaled processing trials (e.g., demonstrator production).

The main operating range of the wetlaid line relates to the following parameters:

  • Processing speed: up to 30 m/min
  • Role width: 610 mm
  • Grammage: approx. 20–300 gsm
  • Overall machinery is ≥ IP65 standard for processing, e.g., conductive fiber materials
  • Machine design based on an angled wire configuration with high dewatering capacity, e.g., for processing highly diluted fiber suspensions or for material variants with high water retention capacity.
  • Machine modular system design with maximum flexibility for a quick change of material variants or a quick change of process parameters. The setup allows short-term hardware adaptations as well as project-specific modifications.

Research focus: carbon recycling at the end of the life cycle
The research focus of Fraunhofer IGCV is primarily in the field of technical staple fibers. The processing of recycled carbon fibers is a particular focus. Current research topics in this context include, for example, the research, optimization, and further development of binder systems, different fiber lengths and fiber length distributions, nonwoven homogeneity, and fiber orientation. In addition, the focus is on the integration of digital as well as AI-supported methods within the framework of online process monitoring. Further research topics, such as the production of gas diffusion layers for fuel cell components, the further development of battery elements, and filtration applications, are currently being developed.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Casting, Composite and Processing Technology IGCV

Photo: pixabay
03.05.2022

The Journey to Carbon Neutrality: Reduction technologies and measuring tools

More and more sports and fashion brands are setting themselves the goal of becoming climate neutral within the next few years, on a corporate as well as product level. The CO2 balance serves as the gateway to sustainable apparel and for more transparency for the consumer.

This process begins with the materials supplied by textile producers, requiring knowledge of the amount of CO2 emitted during production. By evaluating and quantifying CO2 emissions, the industry gains in transparency and can turn to more sustainable options.

More and more sports and fashion brands are setting themselves the goal of becoming climate neutral within the next few years, on a corporate as well as product level. The CO2 balance serves as the gateway to sustainable apparel and for more transparency for the consumer.

This process begins with the materials supplied by textile producers, requiring knowledge of the amount of CO2 emitted during production. By evaluating and quantifying CO2 emissions, the industry gains in transparency and can turn to more sustainable options.

In close collaboration with sustainability insights platform Higg and partners such as Climate Partner, PERFORMANCE DAYS Munich and Functional Fabric Fair by PERFORMANCE DAYS Portland seek targeted answers to the question, “How can we cut down on CO2 emissions?” as part of its roadmap over the next three fairs. The Focus Topic “The Journey to Carbon Neutrality” will therefore highlight materials and fibers that provide solutions on how to produce and reprocess materials in the future in a climate-friendly manner, kicking off at the spring trade fair, to be held at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland on April 4-5, 2022, at the Munich’s Exhibition Center on April 27-28, 2022, continuing through the winter fair in October/November and culminating at the Spring 2023 fair.

When the conversation turns to environmental protection and climate change these days, the term CO2 neutrality is also often mentioned in connection with CO2 emissions and CO2 reduction. Yet what exactly does CO2 neutrality mean? Climate neutrality implies achieving a balance between carbon emissions themselves and the absorption of carbon in the atmosphere into carbon sinks. To achieve net zero emissions, all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide must be offset by carbon sequestration. The fashion and sportswear industries are among the world’s highest emitters of CO2.

If one wishes to examine their emissions across all stages of the value chain, it is worth looking beyond raw materials, production, logistics and trade. Consumer behavior can also influence emissions: According to the “Fashion on Climate” report published by the Global Fashion Agenda and McKinsey at the end of August 2020, even greater leverage lies in the products themselves: 61 percent of reductions in emissions could be achieved through CO2 reductions in material production and processing, by minimizing production and manufacturing waste, and in the manufacturing of garments. By 2030, that would account for around 1 billion tons annually. And last but not least, consumer behavior is also a factor that impacts the fashion industry’s climate footprint. If even more attention is paid to sustainable clothing, and if it is reused and worn longer, this can lead to a reduction in emissions of up to 347 million tons, according to the report.

A pioneering example on the road to sustainability was PERFORMANCE DAYS’ decision to only present sustainable materials at the PERFORMANCE FORUM from the trade fair event in November 2019 onwards. And from the upcoming Spring Fair onwards, the sustainable approach will be heightened further. Within the framework of this roadmap, the new Focus Topic is intended to accompany exhibitors on their way to climate neutrality over the course of three fairs. In doing so, PERFORMANCE DAYS and Functional Fabric Fair are pursuing a 3-step plan.  

  • Step 1, April 2022: The focus of the upcoming fair will be on CO2-reducing technologies and the measuring of a product’s carbon footprint.
  • Step 2, November 2022: Within the entire Focus Topic product category, only products that indicate CO2 emissions caused during production will be shown. This contributes to more transparency and comparability in the industry.
  • Step 3, April 2023: The PERFORMANCE FORUM will present the amount of CO2 emitted by each individual product. Furthermore, approaches to solutions will be shown as to how CO2 released during the manufacturing of materials can be offset and further reduced.

For the best possible implementation and presentation of the new Focus Topic, PERFORMANCE DAYS and Functional Fabric Fair trust in collaborators: Higg and Climate Partner – amongst others – will accompany the next three fairs. The Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) is considered the leading tool for assessing the environmental impact of materials in the apparel, footwear and textile industries. The Higg MSI is able to calculate the environmental impact of millions of possible material manufacturing variants. A packaging library has also been added to assist in making sustainable decisions for packaging. The Higg Index is neither a certificate nor a label, but rather an important self-assessment tool that textile companies can utilize internally to be able to identify and improve environmental and social issues throughout their value chain.

Climate Partner, on the other hand, seeks solutions for climate protection: This involves the balancing of CO2 emissions – which in turn are to offset the emissions of companies with recognized climate protection projects in order to make products, services and companies climate neutral. Climate Partner also sees itself as an advisor to companies on their climate protection strategies. Together, the aim is to work on reducing CO2 emissions and to support climate protection projects that benefit the everyday lives of people in developing countries. 

Source:

PERFORMANCE DAYS

(c) Empa
05.04.2022

In the heat of the wound: Smart bandage

A bandage that releases medication as soon as an infection starts in a wound could treat injuries more efficiently. Empa researchers are currently working on polymer fibers that soften as soon as the environment heats up due to an infection, thereby releasing antimicrobial drugs.

It is not possible to tell from the outside whether a wound will heal without problems under the dressing or whether bacteria will penetrate the injured tissue and ignite an inflammation. To be on the safe side, disinfectant ointments or antibiotics are applied to the wound before the dressing is applied. However, these preventive measures are not necessary in every case. Thus, medications are wasted and wounds are over-treated.

A bandage that releases medication as soon as an infection starts in a wound could treat injuries more efficiently. Empa researchers are currently working on polymer fibers that soften as soon as the environment heats up due to an infection, thereby releasing antimicrobial drugs.

It is not possible to tell from the outside whether a wound will heal without problems under the dressing or whether bacteria will penetrate the injured tissue and ignite an inflammation. To be on the safe side, disinfectant ointments or antibiotics are applied to the wound before the dressing is applied. However, these preventive measures are not necessary in every case. Thus, medications are wasted and wounds are over-treated.

Even worse, the wasteful use of antibiotics promotes the emergence of multi-resistant germs, which are an immense problem in global healthcare. Empa researchers at the two Empa laboratories Biointerfaces and Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles in St. Gallen want to change this. They are developing a dressing that autonomously administers antibacterial drugs only when they are really needed.

The idea of the interdisciplinary team led by Qun Ren and Fei Pan: The dressing should be "loaded" with drugs and react to environmental stimuli. "In this way, wounds could be treated as needed at exactly the right moment," explains Fei Pan. As an environmental stimulus, the team chose a well-known effect: the rise in temperature in an infected, inflamed wound.

Now the team had to design a material that would react appropriately to this increase in temperature. For this purpose, a skin-compatible polymer composite was developed made of several components: acrylic glass (polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA), which is used, for example, for eyeglass lenses and in the textile industry, and Eudragit, a biocompatible polymer mixture that is used, for example, to coat pills. Electrospinning was used to process the polymer mixture into a fine membrane of nanofibers. Finally, octenidine was encapsulated in the nanofibers as a medically active component. Octenidine is a disinfectant that acts quickly against bacteria, fungi and some viruses. In healthcare, it can be used on the skin, on mucous membranes and for wound disinfection.

Signs of inflammation as triggers
As early as in the ancient world, the Greek physician Galen described the signs of inflammation. The five Latin terms are still valid today: dolor (pain), calor (heat), rubor (redness), tumor (swelling) and functio laesa (impaired function) stand for the classic indications of inflammation. In an infected skin wound, local warmth can be as high as five degrees. This temperature difference can be used as a trigger: Suitable materials change their consistency in this range and can release therapeutic substances.

Shattering glove
"In order for the membrane to act as a "smart bandage" and actually release the disinfectant when the wound heats up due to an infection, we put together the polymer mixture of PMMA and Eudragit in such a way that we could adjust the glass transition temperature accordingly," says Fei Pan. This is the temperature, at which a polymer changes from a solid consistency to a rubbery, toughened state. Figuratively, the effect is often described in reverse: If you put a rubber glove in liquid nitrogen at –196 degrees, it changes its consistency and becomes so hard that you can shatter it like glass with one blow.

The desired glass transition temperature of the polymer membrane, on the other hand, was in the range of 37 degrees. When inflammation kicks in and the skin heats up above its normal temperature of 32 to 34 degrees, the polymer changes from its solid to a softer state. In laboratory experiments, the team observed the disinfectant being released from the polymer at 37 degrees – but not at 32 degrees. Another advantage: The process is reversible and can be repeated up to five times, as the process always "switches itself off" when it cools down. Following these promising initial tests, the Empa researchers now want to fine-tune the effect. Instead of a temperature range of four to five degrees, the smart bandage should already switch on and off at smaller temperature differences.

Smart and unsparing
To investigate the efficacy of the nanofiber membranes against wound germs, further laboratory experiments are now in the pipeline. Team leader Qun Ren has long been concerned with germs that nestle in the interface between surfaces and the environment, such as on a skin wound. "In this biological setting, a kind of no man's land between the body and the dressing material, bacteria find a perfect biological niche," says the Empa researcher. Infectious agents such as staphylococci or Pseudomonas bacteria can cause severe wound healing disorders. It was precisely these wound germs that the team allowed to become acquainted with the smart dressing in the Petri dish. And indeed: The number of bacteria was reduced roughly 1000-fold when octenidine was released from the smart dressing. "With octenidine, we have achieved a proof of principle for controlled drug release by an external stimulus," said Qun Ren. In future, she said, the technology could be applied to other types of drugs, increasing the efficiency and precision in their dosage.

The smart dressing
Empa researchers are working in interdisciplinary teams on various approaches to improve medical wound treatment. For example, liquid sensors on the outside of the dressing are to make it visible when a wound is healing poorly by changing their color. Critical glucose and pH values serve as biomarkers.

To enable bacterial infections to be contained directly in the wound, the researchers are also working on a polymer foam loaded with anti-inflammatory substances and on a skin-friendly membrane made of plant material. The cellulose membrane is equipped with antimicrobial protein elements and kills bacteria extremely efficiently in laboratory tests.

Moreover, digitalization can achieve more economical and efficient dosages in wound care: Empa researchers are developing digital twins of the skin that allow control and prediction of the course of a therapy using real-time modeling.

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Katharina
Maniura Biointerfaces
Phone +41 58 765 74 47
Katharina.Maniura@empa.ch

Prof. Dr. René Rossi
Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles
Phone +41 58 765 77 65
Rene.rossi@empa.ch

Source:

EMPA, Andrea Six

Foto: Lalit Kumar, Unsplash
29.03.2022

The man-made fibers industry at the turning point of time

"You don't tear down a house before the new one is ready for occupancy."

Textination talked to the Managing Director of the Industrievereinigung Chemiefaser e.V., Dr. Wilhelm Rauch, about his assessment of the turning point that the man-made fibers industry is currently facing. What are the risks and threats, and what needs to change in order to remain a competitive player on the global market.

"You don't tear down a house before the new one is ready for occupancy."

Textination talked to the Managing Director of the Industrievereinigung Chemiefaser e.V., Dr. Wilhelm Rauch, about his assessment of the turning point that the man-made fibers industry is currently facing. What are the risks and threats, and what needs to change in order to remain a competitive player on the global market.

US President Joe Biden has called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a war criminal in connection with the invasion of Ukraine. The United Nations' highest court, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, has ordered Russia to immediately end its war against Ukraine. How do you personally assess Russia's behavior?
Dr. Rauch:
With family roots in the Rhineland, Central and East Germany, I grew up at a time when, as a result of the division of Europe, families were separated and people were ruthlessly shot in the middle of Germany who wanted to cross the inner-German demarcation line towards the West. Since 1989, the fall of the Iron Curtain has led us into a period that lasted more than 30 years and allowed us, at least in Europe, to experience an era of peaceful coexistence between the great power blocs, intensive trade relations and prosperous states.

It is more than shocking to see today how Russia is trying to turn back the wheel of history in Europe with a brutality that the youngest generation growing up in Europe has fortunately not had to experience so far, and it brings back the worst memories of the Cold War, which everyone hoped would never return. If today in Ukraine even facilities for the peaceful use of nuclear energy are fired upon, a dimension has been reached that one does not want to extrapolate any further. In addition to the unspeakable human suffering caused, which we can only begin to alleviate by accepting Ukrainian refugees, in the long term all trust in political promises is being gambled away, which, however, is essential both for peaceful coexistence and for economic cooperation. We are facing a reordering of the world in which supply relationships and dependencies with or on autocratic states must be evaluated much more sensitively for each individual case.

The economic consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict are becoming increasingly clear. The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) is correcting its forecast for 2022, but does not yet see a recession. What are your expectations for the industry in the current fiscal year?
Dr. Rauch:
The man-made fibers industry has been severely affected by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in the last two years. Planned investments were first postponed and then finally abandoned. By the end of 2022, three man-made fibers producers will close their doors in Germany compared to 2019. The industry started the current year on a very hopeful note, although previous issues such as REACH and, above all, energy costs were already increasing in severity before the Russia-Ukraine war. The economic consequences of the war will have a negative impact both directly in the form of increased energy prices and indirectly through changes in international competitive conditions.

What do the war in Ukraine and the economic sanctions against Russia entail for the upstream supply chains of the manmade fiber industry?
Dr. Rauch:
The immediate upstream supply chains will not be affected much by this war at first. However, we must expect supply chains in other industries to be disrupted. If, for example, certain raw materials or products are no longer available, this can have a noticeable impact, starting with logistics (mobility) and extending to components in production technology facilities. An example of this is the availability of cable harnesses, which were previously produced in Ukraine and are indispensable in many electronic components for man-made fibers production.

What is the relevance of Ukraine and Russia as sales markets for IVC member companies?
Dr. Rauch:
If we take the last year before the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic as the reference year, exports to Ukraine and the Russian Federation account for around 1.6% of total exports of man-made fibers from Germany. On average, a loss of sales to these countries can be tolerated, although it should not be forgotten that in individual cases - depending on a company's product portfolio - the impact can be quite significant. Looking beyond the horizon, it is not only the direct exports of man-made fibers to the war region that are of significance, but also deliveries of products in which man-made fibers are processed. Here, there are now interrupted supply relationships that result in order losses for the man-made fibers industry.

Certain industries are particularly affected by the consequences - what does this mean for the man-made fibers sector as a supplier industry?
Dr. Rauch:
Wherever production is cut back along the downstream value chain in which man-made fibers were used, the effects will be noticeable with a temporal delay. This applies, for example, to deliveries to the automotive sector, where the production of new vehicles comes to a standstill due to a lack of components originating from Ukraine.

How are exploding energy prices and the gas embargo affecting man-made fibers producers in the DACH region?
Dr. Rauch:
Even before the Russia-Ukraine war, European energy costs were already at a level that hit our members hard. For example, European gas costs currently rose by ten times from approx. 12 EUR/MWh to approx. 120 EUR/MWh as a result of the war, while in the USA they "only" rose by two and a half times from approx. 8 EUR/MWh to approx. 18 EUR/MWh. The situation is similar for electricity prices in Germany in particular, which have also risen by a factor of 10 from an already high level. Further price increases in Europe cannot be ruled out, but are more likely. Against this background, moderate adjustments in man-made fibers prices are only a drop in the bucket. A market development with virtually exploding energy costs cannot be reliably depicted by any company, nor can it be priced in such a way as to cover costs.

As the industry association of the man-made fibers industry, what do you think of "Freeze for Peace" or a stop to all Russian gas and raw material imports?
Dr. Rauch:
In Germany in particular, we have deliberately made ourselves dependent on Russian gas, contrary to all international warnings, by defining it as necessary for the bridge technology of electricity generation that we will need after the shutdown of coal- and nuclear-based power plants, before the availability of a sufficient amount of so-called "green" energy is assured. Gas is also needed for heating purposes and as a raw material, so it takes on the function of an all-rounder.

A boycott-related import stop would not only have serious negative consequences for the man-made fibers sector, but for the entire German industry and the majority of private households. As I mentioned at the beginning, it is the order of the day to help alleviate human suffering by taking in Ukrainian refugees. But this is not the end of the crisis. It must be assumed that the war situation will not be resolved in the near future. However, in order to cope with a protracted crisis situation, our economic strength must be maintained in order to be able to cope with the challenges ahead. An import freeze would be counterproductive in this respect. Since, due to the latest developments, gas deliveries are now to be paid for in rubles, there is rather a risk that Russia, for its part, will stop gas deliveries. In their effect, the two scenarios do not differ. The only thing that is certain is the fact that the availability of Russian gas to Europe is no longer guaranteed. Ultimately, the Russian demand to switch payments to rubles, which is not only aimed at revaluing the ruble, makes it clear that Russia is not dependent on Europe as a buyer of its gas. This would mean that a "freeze for peace" would lead to nothing. In the Far East, there is already a potential buyer of Russian gas to obtain it cheaply and safely, and which is also a major competitor of the European chemical fiber industry: China.

Are agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar a good substitute solution for gas and oil supplies from Russia?
Dr. Rauch:
It is not a question of evaluating a measure in the sense of good or bad, but of whether it appears suitable in this particular situation to reduce unilateral dependencies on an aggressor before sustainable solutions are available in sufficient quantity. In this respect, there should initially be no ideological barriers in the measures to be examined for feasibility. The agreements concluded with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar after certainly careful political scrutiny are individual decisions and represent only one piece in the mosaic among many.

Does the saying "First we had bad luck, then we were not lucky at all" apply to the current economic performance of the industry - or: how do you assess the influence of the Corona pandemic and the war situation in this respect?
Dr. Rauch:
Both the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war are events with a global character. While the first event affected all countries equally sooner or later, the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war must be assessed in a more differentiated manner. The consequences of the war primarily affect companies in Europe, and there in particular those countries which - as mentioned above - have placed themselves in unilateral dependencies like Germany. This does not apply to the man-made fibers industry in particular. Although there are many fellow sufferers in other industries, this does not improve the situation, of course.

What does the industry expect from the political leaders in Berlin and Brussels in the future?
Dr. Rauch:
The wish list can be fixed to a few core elements:
In the long term, we need a supply of energy and raw materials that is not based on the dependence of a few autocratic states. On the way there, against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war, previous exit scenarios from coal and nuclear energy must be reconsidered without prejudice with regard to their timeline. Or to put it more concisely: You don't tear down a house before the new one is ready for occupancy.

But energies from renewable raw materials must also be offered at prices that allow global competitiveness. According to a study by DECHEMA and FutureCamp, the chemical industry has calculated a price of 4 ct/kWh (including all taxes and fees). We are miles away from this today.

The revision of REACH must not lead to further bureaucracy and requirements that tie up capacity in companies. What we need in Europe is not dotting the i on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but to ensure that we do not slide down the levels step by step and that the i dot floats in the air without an "i".

European economic policy must focus on the international competitiveness of European industry. It is not sufficient to consider and regulate the European Union only from the point of view of the internal market. The planned carbon border mechanism is such an example. It is intended to impose customs duties on imports that carry a high CO2 burden. This may protect the domestic market, but it does nothing at all to help export-oriented European industry such as the man-made fibers sector on the international world market, because European production costs remain too high by global standards despite the carbon border taxes.

The European Commission must increasingly recognize the European industry and with it the man-made fibers industry as problem solvers. Man-made fibers are indispensable as products for the energy turnaround (rotor blades for wind turbines), lightweight construction in mobility (lightweight car bodies in composite systems), sustainable road construction (geotextiles to reinforce the road surface and increase its service life), reduction of steel-reinforced concrete and thus cement, sand and gravel (reinforcement with high-tensile man-made fibers) and medical products (medical masks, bandaging materials, stents).

In Europe, we again need more market economy and no small-scale regulations that are adapted again and again and proliferate into an impenetrable thicket.

With all the wishes to politicians mentioned above, let me finally mention the following with regard to the current situation: In 1961, after the Berlin Wall was built, Russian and American tanks faced each other at Checkpoint Charlie at a distance of less than 50 meters, ready to fire.

A year later, in October 1962, nuclear-equipped American and Russian naval units met head-on in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both John F. Kennedy and Nikita S. Khrushchev - bitter rivals in the contest of political systems - were sensible enough at the time not to let the situation escalate.

At present, I wish our national, European and transatlantic politicians’ unconditional determination in the defense of our free democratic values, but I also appeal to all politicians worldwide to take to heart one of Albert Einstein's fundamental perceptions: "I don't know what weapons will be used in the Third World War. But I can tell you what they'll use in the Fourth - rocks!"

Source:

Textination

The Interview was conducted by Ines Chucholowius, CEO Textination GmbH

Photo: pixabay
15.02.2022

Advanced Fibers: When damaged ropes change color

High-performance fibres that have been exposed to high temperatures usually lose their mechanical properties undetected and, in the worst case, can tear precisely when lives depend on them. For example, safety ropes used by fire brigades or suspension ropes for heavy loads on construction sites. Empa researchers have now developed a coating that changes color when exposed to high temperatures through friction or fire.

The firefighter runs into the burning building and systematically searches room by room for people in need of rescue. Attached to him is a safety rope at the other end of which his colleagues are waiting outside in front of the building. In an emergency - should he lose consciousness for any reason - they can pull him out of the building or follow him into the building for rescue. However, if this rope has been exposed to excessive heat during previous operations, it may tear apart. This means danger to life!

High-performance fibres that have been exposed to high temperatures usually lose their mechanical properties undetected and, in the worst case, can tear precisely when lives depend on them. For example, safety ropes used by fire brigades or suspension ropes for heavy loads on construction sites. Empa researchers have now developed a coating that changes color when exposed to high temperatures through friction or fire.

The firefighter runs into the burning building and systematically searches room by room for people in need of rescue. Attached to him is a safety rope at the other end of which his colleagues are waiting outside in front of the building. In an emergency - should he lose consciousness for any reason - they can pull him out of the building or follow him into the building for rescue. However, if this rope has been exposed to excessive heat during previous operations, it may tear apart. This means danger to life!

And up to now there has been no way of noticing this damage to the rope. 2021 a team of researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich has developed a coating which changes color due to the physical reaction with heat, thus clearly indicating whether a rope will continue to provide the safety it promises in the future.

Researchers from ETH Zurich and Empa developed a coating system in 2018 as part of a Master's thesis, which the Empa team was now able to apply to fibers. "It was a process involving several steps," says Dirk Hegemann from Empa's Advances Fibers lab. The first coatings only worked on smooth surfaces, so the method first had to be adapted so that it would also work on curved surfaces. Empa has extensive know-how in the coating of fibers - Hegemann and his team have already developed electrically conductive fibers in the past. The so-called sputtering process has now also been successfully applied to the latest coating.

Three layers are required to ensure that the fiber actually changes color when heated. The researchers apply silver to the fibre itself, in this case PET (i.e. polyester) and VectranTM, a high-tech fibre. This serves as a reflector - in other words, as a metallic base layer. This is followed by an intermediate layer of titanium nitrogen oxide, which ensures that the silver remains stable. And only then follows the amorphous layer that causes the color change: Germanium-antimony tellurium (GST), which is just 20 nanometers thick. When this layer is exposed to elevated temperatures, it crystallizes, changing the color from blue to white. The colour change is based on a physical phenomenon known as interference. Two different waves (e.g. light) meet and amplify or weaken each other. Depending on the chemical composition of the temperature-sensitive layer, this color change can be adjusted to a temperature range between 100 and 400 degrees and thus adapted to the mechanical properties of the fiber type.

Tailor-made solutions
The possible areas of application for the colour-changing fibres are still open, and Hegemann is currently looking for possible project partners. In addition to safety equipment for firefighters or mountaineers, the fibres can also be used for load ropes in production facilities, on construction sites, etc. In any case, research on the subject is far from complete. At present, it is not yet possible to store the fibers for long periods of time without losing their functionality. "Unfortunately, the phase-change materials oxidize over the course of a few months," says Hegemann. This means that the corresponding phase change - crystallization - no longer takes place, even with heat, and the rope thus loses its "warning signal". In any case, it has been proven that the principle works, and durability is a topic for future research, says Hegemann. "As soon as the first partners from industry register their interest in our own products, the fibers can be further optimized according to their needs".

Information:
Dr. Dirk Hegemann
Advanced Fibers
Tel. +41 58 765 7268
Dirk.Hegemann@empa.ch

More information:
Empa Fibers Ropes temperature
Source:

EMPA, Andrea Six

(c) Empa
08.02.2022

Early detection of dementia with a textile belt

Alzheimer's and other dementias are among the most widespread diseases today. Diagnosis is complex and can often only be established with certainty late in the course of the disease. A team of Empa researchers, together with clinical partners, is now developing a new diagnostic tool that can detect the first signs of neurodegenerative changes using a sensor belt.

Forgetfulness and confusion can be signs of a currently incurable ailment: Alzheimer's disease. It is the most common form of dementia that currently affect around 50 million people worldwide. It mainly afflicts older people. The fact that this number will increase sharply in the future is therefore also related to the general increase in life expectancy.

Alzheimer's and other dementias are among the most widespread diseases today. Diagnosis is complex and can often only be established with certainty late in the course of the disease. A team of Empa researchers, together with clinical partners, is now developing a new diagnostic tool that can detect the first signs of neurodegenerative changes using a sensor belt.

Forgetfulness and confusion can be signs of a currently incurable ailment: Alzheimer's disease. It is the most common form of dementia that currently affect around 50 million people worldwide. It mainly afflicts older people. The fact that this number will increase sharply in the future is therefore also related to the general increase in life expectancy.

If dementia is suspected, neuropsychological examinations, laboratory tests and demanding procedures in the hospital are required. However, the first neurodegenerative changes in the brain occur decades before a reduced cognitive ability becomes apparent. Currently, these can only be detected by expensive or invasive procedures. These methods are thus not suitable for extensive early screenings on a larger scale. Empa researchers are working with partners from the Cantonal Hospital and the Geriatric Clinic in St. Gallen on a non-invasive diagnostic method that detects the early processes of dementia.

Signs in the unconscious
For the new method, the researchers Patrick Eggenberger and Simon Annaheim from Empa's Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles lab in St. Gallen relied on a sensor belt that has already been used successfully for ECG measurements and has now been equipped with sensors for other relevant parameters such as body temperature and gait pattern. This is because long before memory starts to deteriorate in dementia, subtle changes appear in the brain, which are expressed through unconscious bodily reactions.

These changes can only be recorded precisely when measurements are taken over a longer period of time, though. "It should be possible to integrate the long-term measurements into everyday life," explains Simon Annaheim. Skin-friendly and comfortable monitoring systems are essential for measurements that are suitable for everyday use. The diagnostic belt is therefore based on flexible sensors with electrically conductive or light-conducting fibers as well as sensors for motion and temperature measurement.

To enable such long-term measurements to be used for monitoring neurocognitive health, the researchers are integrating the collected data into in-house developed mathematical models. The goal: an early warning system that can estimate the progression of cognitive impairment. Another advantage is that the data measurements can be integrated into telemonitoring solutions and can thus improve patient care in their familiar environment.

Suspicious monotony
The human body is able to keep its temperature constant in a range of 1 degree Celsius. The values naturally oscillate in the course of the day. This daily rhythm changes with age and is conspicuous in neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia or Parkinson's disease. In Alzheimer's patients, for example, the core body temperature is elevated by up to 0.2 degrees Celsius. At the same time, the spikes in daily temperature fluctuations are dampened.

In a study, the researchers have now been able to show that altered skin temperature readings measured with the sensor belt actually provide an indication of the cognitive performance of test subjects – and can do so well before dementia develops. The test subjects in the study included healthy people with or without mild brain impairment. This mild cognitive impairment (MCI) does not represent a disability in everyday life, but it is considered a possible precursor to Alzheimer's disease. The subjects took part in long-term measurements and neuropsychological tests. It was found that a lower body temperature, which fluctuated more throughout the day, was linked to a better cognitive performance. In individuals with MCI, body temperature varied less and was slightly elevated overall.

The heartbeat is also subject to natural variations that show how our nervous system adapts to sudden challenges. The small silence between two heartbeats, about one second in duration, has great significance for our health: If this pause always remains the same, our nervous system is not at its best.

A study by researchers from ETH Zurich determined that poorer measurements in older, healthy people can be improved within six months through cognitive-motor dance training. In these "exergames," the test subjects imitated sequences of steps from a video. In contrast, participants who instead only trained in straight lines on a treadmill, but also trained their memory, benefited less.

"The point is to intervene early with appropriate training as soon as the first negative signs can be measured," says Patrick Eggenberger. "With our sensor system, any improvements in cognitive performance can be tracked through movement-based forms of therapy." Studies with long-term monitoring will now be used to clarify how the sensor measurements can be used to predict the progression of mild brain disorders.

Further information
Dr. Simon Annaheim
Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles   
Phone +41 58 765 77 68
Simon.Annaheim@empa.ch

More information:
Empa Membrane Medical & Healthcare
Source:

EMPA, Andrea Six

Photo: pixabay, Hilary Clark
01.02.2022

Cotton Fibers 2.0: Fireproof and comfortable

A new chemical process developed by Empa turns cotton into a fire-resistant fabric, that nevertheless retains the skin-friendly properties of cotton.

Conventional flame retardant cotton textiles suffer from release of formaldehyde and are uncomfortable to wear. Empa scientists managed to circumvent this problem by creating a physically and chemically independent network of flame retardants inside the fibers. This approach retains the inherently positive properties of cotton fibers, which account for three-quarters of the world's demand for natural fibers in clothing and home textiles. Cotton is skin-friendly because it can absorb considerable amounts of water and maintain a favorable microclimate on the skin.

A new chemical process developed by Empa turns cotton into a fire-resistant fabric, that nevertheless retains the skin-friendly properties of cotton.

Conventional flame retardant cotton textiles suffer from release of formaldehyde and are uncomfortable to wear. Empa scientists managed to circumvent this problem by creating a physically and chemically independent network of flame retardants inside the fibers. This approach retains the inherently positive properties of cotton fibers, which account for three-quarters of the world's demand for natural fibers in clothing and home textiles. Cotton is skin-friendly because it can absorb considerable amounts of water and maintain a favorable microclimate on the skin.

For firefighters and other emergency service personnel, protective clothing provides the most important barrier. For such purposes, cotton is mainly used as an inner textile layer that needs additional properties: For example, it must be fireproof or protect against biological contaminants. Nevertheless, it should not be hydrophobic, which would create an uncomfortable microclimate. These additional properties can be built into the cotton fibers by suitable chemical modifications.

Durability vs. toxicity
"Until now, it has always taken a compromise to make cotton fireproof," says Sabyasachi Gaan, a chemist and polymer expert who works at Empa's Advanced Fibers lab. Wash-durable flame retardant cotton in industry is produced by treating the fabric with flame retardants, which chemically links to the cellulose in the cotton. Currently, the textile industry has no other choice than to utilize formaldehyde-based chemicals – and formaldehyde is classified as a carcinogen. This has been an unsolved problem for decades. While formaldehyde-based flame retardant treatments are durable, they have additional drawbacks: The -OH groups of cellulose are chemically blocked, which considerably reduces the capability of cotton to absorb water, which results in an uncomfortable textile.

Gaan knows the chemistry of cotton fibers well and has spent many years at Empa developing flame retardants based on phosphorus chemistry that are already used in many industrial applications. Now he has succeeded in finding an elegant and easy way to anchor phosphorous in form of an independent network inside the cotton.

Independent network between cotton fibers
Gaan and his colleagues Rashid Nazir, Dambarudhar Parida and Joel Borgstädt utilized a tri-functional phosphorous compound (trivinylphosphine oxide), which has the capability of reacting only with specifically added molecules (nitrogen compounds like piperazin) to form its own network inside cotton. This makes the cotton permanently fire-resistant without blocking the favorable -OH groups. In addition, the physical phosphine oxide network also likes water. This flame retardant treatment does not include carcinogenic formaldehyde, which would endanger textile workers during textile manufacturing. The phosphine oxide networks, thus formed, does not wash out: After 50 launderings, 95 percent of the flame retardant network is still present in the fabric.

To render additional protective functionalities to the flame retardant cotton developed at Empa, the researchers also incorporated in situ generated silver nanoparticles inside the fabric. This works nicely in a one-step process together with generating the phosphine oxide networks. Silver nanoparticles provide the fiber with antimicrobial properties and survive 50 laundry cycles, too.

A high-tech solution from the pressure cooker
"We have used a simple approach to fix the phosphine oxide networks inside the cellulose," Gaan says. "For our lab experiments, we first treated the cotton with an aqueous solution of phosphorus and nitrogen compounds and then steamed it in a readily available pressure cooker to facilitate the crosslinking reaction of the phosphorus and the nitrogen molecules." The application process is compatible with equipment used in the textile industry. "Steaming textiles after dyeing, printing and finishing is a normal step in textile industry. So it doesn't require an additional investment to apply our process," states the Empa chemist.

Meanwhile, this newly developed phosphorus chemistry and its application is protected by a patent application. "Two important hurdles remain," Gaan says. "For future commercialization we need to find a suitable chemical manufacturer who can produce and supply trivinylphosphine oxide. In addition, trivinylphosphine oxide has to be REACH-registered in Europe."

Contact:
Dr. Sabyasachi Gaan
Advanced Fibers
Phone: +41 58 765 7611
sabyasachi.gaan@empa.ch
 
Contact:
Prof. Dr. Manfred Heuberger
Advanced Fibers
Phone: +41 58 765 7878
manfred.heuberger@empa.ch

A gel that releases drugs
The novel phosphorus chemistry can also be used to develop other materials, e.g. to make hydrogels that can release drugs upon changes in pH. Such gels could find application in treating wounds that heal slowly. In such wounds, the pH of the skin surface increases and the new phosphorus-based gels can be triggered to release medication or a dye that alerts doctors and nurses to the problem. Empa has also patented the production of such hydrogels.

Source:

EMPA, Rainer Klose

(c) Schoeller Textil AG
18.01.2022

A jacket from a jacket from a jacket ...

Manufacture, wear, wash, incinerate: This typical life cycle of garments, which pollutes the environment, is to be changed in the future – towards principles of circular economy with recycling at its core. Using an outdoor jacket made from PET bottles and recycled materials, Empa researchers have investigated whether the product actually delivers what the idea promises.

At first glance, it's a normal rain jacket: three layers of polyester, a lining on the inside, a water vapor-permeable membrane on top and water-repellent fabric on the outside, with a hood. But the zipper makes you wonder. Instead of ending at collar height, it pulls up over the forehead ... – who would pull it that far?

Manufacture, wear, wash, incinerate: This typical life cycle of garments, which pollutes the environment, is to be changed in the future – towards principles of circular economy with recycling at its core. Using an outdoor jacket made from PET bottles and recycled materials, Empa researchers have investigated whether the product actually delivers what the idea promises.

At first glance, it's a normal rain jacket: three layers of polyester, a lining on the inside, a water vapor-permeable membrane on top and water-repellent fabric on the outside, with a hood. But the zipper makes you wonder. Instead of ending at collar height, it pulls up over the forehead ... – who would pull it that far?

The explanation is given by Annette Mark from textile manufacturer BTK Europe, who contributed to this product. The zipper is intended to be an eye-catcher – and is primarily for recycling: Sewn tight with a thread that dissolves in boiling water, it is easier to remove than two fasteners. "Pull once and you're done," says the expert on textiles and recycling. The light green color is also due to recycling: The raw material, a granule made from a mixture of different but single-variety textiles, is dark green – and melting and spinning out the material for new yarns lightens it.

Circular economy within textile industry
Magnetic buttons, seams, hems: Every detail of the jacket follows the Design2Recycle approach, as it says on the Wear2wear website. Six companies from Europe's textile industry have joined forces in this consortium to promote circular economy. After all, more than 70 percent of all textiles produced worldwide end up in landfills or incinerators without being recycled.

How can circular economy be acheived in this industry? A team from Empa's Technology and Society lab took a closer look at the jacket and its environmental impact using life cycle analyses over a four-year period of use; including washing it three times. The candidates: a jacket produced without circular economy methods, the "starter version" of the jacket available since 2019 in blue – with an outer layer made of polyester derived from used PET bottles – and the green version from the subsequent recycling process, in which unavoidable material losses are replaced by new polyester.

The researchers' analyses show that the recycled products perform better – in eleven environmental risk categories, including global warming, toxicity to ecosystems and water scarcity. There are strikingly large advantages in air pollution, for example, because fewer pollutants are released without incineration, as well as in water scarcity, especially for the green jacket after the first recycling "loop," for which PET bottles are no longer used.

Other insights from the analyses: In terms of greenhouse effect, the maximum benefit is a good 30 percent. And the use of PET bottles does not bring any major ecological benefits. What is decisive, on the other hand, is the number of recycling cycles to produce new jackets: The balance improves from jacket to jacket – provided the quality of the polyester remains high enough.

In practice, this is challenging, as Mark explains: "Depending on the origin, the raw material sometimes differs significantly." If the fibers have been coated with certain additives, the nozzles of the spinning machines can become clogged. And in general, the quality decreases with the number of recycling cycles: more irregular structures of the yarn and lower strength.

Annette Mark's conclusion on the Empa analyses: "very realistic" and useful for improvements. "The cooperation was very good," she says, "full transparency and no compromises." The researchers also found the collaboration fruitful. "Open collaboration between science and industry is enormously important," says former team member Gregor Braun, who has since left Empa and now works as a consultant for sustainability. "Sustainability and circular economy can work well together."

Will the jacket become a market success? "The textile industry is in a state of upheaval. A rethinking is taking place right now that we shouldn't miss," says Annette Mark. But large corporations that are already developing similar products "have completely different options." After all, talks are underway with a sportswear manufacturer – for a fleece jacket, for which the Empa findings could also be useful.

Microplastic fibers from textiles
Textiles made of polyester are making the headlines because of the release microplastic fibers – for instance, during washing – which is sometimes considered a threat to humans and the environment. Empa experts have studied the formation and release of microplastic fibers. Their results: Fibers are released primarily at the fabric's edges. Their formation and release depends, among other things, on the type of fiber, surface treatment and the type of cutting. Compared to other textiles, significantly fewer fibers are released from laser-cut textiles during washing. Empa is conducting studies with industrial partners to further reduce the formation of these fibers during textile production. In Swiss wastewater treatment plants, however, microfibers are largely removed from wastewater and incinerated with the sludge.

More information:
Empa PET Recycling polyester
Source:

EMPA, Norbert Raabe

Graphik: Pixabay
11.01.2022

FIMATEC innovation network enters second funding phase

The network for the development of fiber materials technology for healthcare and sports will receive funding from the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM) for another two years.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWi) approved a corresponding application in December 2021. This will continue to provide funding for the development of innovative functional fibers, smart textiles and application-optimized fiber composite materials until June 2023 and strengthen the technological competitiveness and innovative strength of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The network for the development of fiber materials technology for healthcare and sports will receive funding from the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM) for another two years.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWi) approved a corresponding application in December 2021. This will continue to provide funding for the development of innovative functional fibers, smart textiles and application-optimized fiber composite materials until June 2023 and strengthen the technological competitiveness and innovative strength of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

For this purpose, the FIMATEC innovation network combines competences from different engineering and scientific disciplines with small and medium-sized manufacturers and service providers from the target sectors in medicine and sports (e.g. orthopaedics, prosthetics, surgery, smart textiles) as well as players from the textile and plastics industry.      

This interdisciplinary combination of industrial partners and application-oriented research institutions increases competitiveness and enables the players to realise their technical research and development projects quickly and in a targeted manner. The focus for the joint R&D projects of the companies and research institutions is on the development of innovative materials and efficient manufacturing technologies. 
          
Fiber-based materials have become indispensable in many applications in medicine and sports. As a pure fiber, processed into a textile or as a fiber composite plastic, they offer an almost unlimited variety for adjusting property and functional profiles. At the same time, the demands on the range of functions, performance and cost-effectiveness are constantly increasing, so that there is great potential for innovation. Developments are driven on the one hand by new materials and manufacturing processes, and on the other by innovative applications. Products with new and superior functions create a technological advantage over international competitors and enable higher sales revenues. In addition, efficient processes, application-optimized materials or even the integration of functions into the basic structure of textile materials lead to lower production costs and improved marketing opportunities in the future.
For developments in this context, the partners have joined forces in the FIMATEC innovation network, thus combining their expertise. Within the network, innovative materials and processes are being developed jointly in the following areas and tested in future-oriented products and services:

  • Functional fibers
    Innovative fiber materials with integrated functionalities
  • Preforming
    Highly load path optimized fiber orientations for complex fiber composite components.    
  • Smart Textiles
    Textile-based sensors and actuators
  • Hybrid material and manufacturing technologies
    Application-optimized components through cross-technology solution approaches.    
  • Fiber composites  
    Intelligent matrix systems and function-optimized fiber materials.    
  • Fiber-reinforced 3D printing  
    High-quality additive manufacturing processes for the efficient production of individualized products.

 
17 network partners are researching fiber-based materials for medical and sports technologyCurrently, ten companies and seven research institutions are involved in FIMATEC. Interested companies and research institutions as well as potential users can continue to participate in the cooperation network or R&D projects. In the course of membership, the partners are actively supported in identifying and initiating innovation projects as well as securing financing through funding acquisition. One application for ZIM project funding has already been approved by FIMATEC in its first year.

The aim of the already approved project "CFKadapt" is to develop a thermoformable fiber-plastic composite material for optimally adaptable orthopedic aids such as prostheses and orthoses. In the "Modul3Rad" project, which is currently being worked out in detail, the project partners intend to develop a modular lightweight frame system for the construction of user-friendly therapy tricycles, suitable for everyday use by severely and very severely disabled children. Three further collaborative projects are already in the planning stage.

The technology and knowledge transfer enables in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access cutting-edge technological research, especially these are often denied access to innovations due to the lack of their own research departments. The IWS GmbH has taken over the network management for FIMATEC and supports the partners from the first idea to the search for suitable project partners and the preparation and coordination of funding applications. The aim is to obtain funding from the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM), which offers companies funding opportunities for a wide range of technical innovation projects in cooperation with research institutions.

FIMATEC-netzwork partners
all ahead composites GmbH | Veitshöchheim | www.bike-ahead-composites.de
Altropol Kunststoff GmbH | Stockelsdorf | www.altropol.de
Diondo GmbH | Hattingen | www.diondo.com
Mailinger innovative fiber solutions GmbH | Sontra | www.mailinger.de
Sanitätshaus Manfred Klein GmbH & Co. KG | Stade | www.klein-sanitaetshaus.de
STREHL GmbH & Co KG | Bremervörde | www.rehastrehl.de
WESOM Textil GmbH | Olbersdorf | www.wesom-textil.de
Faserinstitut Bremen e.V. (FIBRE) | www.faserinstitut.de
E.F.M. GmbH | Olbersdorf | www.efm-gmbh.de
REHA-OT Lüneburg Melchior und Fittkau GmbH | Olbersdorf | www.rehaot.de
Fraunhofer-Institut für Fertigungstechnik und Angewandte Materialforschung IFAM | Bremen | www.ifam.fraunhofer.de
Leibniz-Institut für Polymerforschung Dresden e.V. (IPF) | www.ipfdd.de
Institut für Polymertechnologien Wismar e.V. (IPT) | www.ipt-wismar.de
Institut für Verbundwerkstoffe GmbH | Kaiserslautern | www.ivw.uni-kl.de

Associated network partners
9T Labs AG | Zürich, Schweiz | www.9tlabs.com
Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, Institut für Kunststofftechnik (FHNW) | www.fhnw.ch
KATZ - Kunststoff Ausbildungs- und Technologie-Zentrum | Aarau, Schweiz | www.katz.ch

Source:

Textination / IWS Innovations- und Wissensstrategien GmbH

(c) STFI
14.12.2021

Funding Project Raw Material Classification of Recycled Fibers

For centuries, old textiles have been used to make tear fibers and processed into new textile products. This effective recycling is one of the oldest material cycles in the world. Today, it is not only clothing that is recycled, but also high-quality technical textiles. As the products of the textile industry evolve, so do the demands on textile recycling. The basis for this is a clear assessment and classification of raw materials.

For centuries, old textiles have been used to make tear fibers and processed into new textile products. This effective recycling is one of the oldest material cycles in the world. Today, it is not only clothing that is recycled, but also high-quality technical textiles. As the products of the textile industry evolve, so do the demands on textile recycling. The basis for this is a clear assessment and classification of raw materials.

In the research project of the German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf (DITF) and the Sächsisches Textilforschungsinstitut e.V. (STFI - Saxony Textile Research Institute), a methodology is being developed that will make it possible to analyze the tearing as well as the subsequent processes with regard to fiber quality. The systematic analysis should make it possible to optimize the subsequent spinning processes in such a way that the recycled content of the yarn can be increased without the yarn properties differing significantly from those of a yarn consisting of 100% good fibers. These yarns can then be processed into sustainable textile products such as clothing or composite components.

The project, which is funded by the BMWi/IGF, is scheduled to run for two years and will end on December 31, 2022. The main benefits for the participating companies are to enable them to make greater use of secondary raw materials, to open up new markets through technologies or products developed in the project, to initiate synergies and long-term cooperation, and to prepare a joint market presence.    

The project includes several steps:

  • Material selection and procurement
    Cotton fibers to be processed are obtained from used textiles (T-shirts) and waste from the cotton spinning mill. Aramid fibers are processed from used protective clothing and technical textiles.
  • Optimization of the preparation / dissolution of the textiles
    To ensure that the fibers are detached from the corresponding textiles as gently as possible and with a not too high reduction, exact settings have to be found for the tearing process, which are technologically very demanding and require a lot of experience.
  • Determination of the quality criteria for the evaluation of the fiber dissolution
    In order to define the quality criteria, the fibers coming from the tearing mill are determined by means of an MDTA-4 measuring device from Textechno GmbH & Co. KG. The criteria determined are to be used to characterize the (lowest possible) fiber shortening caused by the tearing process.
  • Determination of optimized settings in the spinning process
    In order to determine the optimum settings for producing a yarn from the recycled fibers, they are spun after the rotor spinning process. By adjusting the spinning process, the aim is to produce a yarn that has good uniformity and also appropriate firmness.
  • Production and comparison of yarns from recycled raw materials
    In order that the recycled fibers - consisting of aramid and cotton - can each be used to produce an area-measured material, the material is to be processed at industrial scale. For this purpose, the fibers are processed over a complete blowroom line with following sliver production over adapted cards. After drawing and the following roving production, yarns are produced according to the rotor or ring spinning process. The finished yarns are used to produce knitted fabrics.
  • Coordination, analysis of results and preparation of reports
    The final report is prepared by the DITF and the STFI. The results will be transferred through publications, technical information to associations and trade fair presentations. Regular meetings with the participating companies are planned.

Textination spoke with Stephan Baz, Deputy Head of the Competence Center Staple Fiber, Weaving & Simulation, Head of Staple Fiber Technology and Markus Baumann, Research Associate at the Competence Center Staple Fiber, Weaving & Simulation (both DITF) as well as Bernd Gulich, Head of Department Nonwovens/Recycling and Johannes Leis, Research Associate Focus Nonwovens/Recycling (both STFI) about the current status of the funding project.

What is the current status of the project?
We are currently in the phase of carrying out trials and the iterative optimization of several project components. As expected, several loops are necessary for the mechanical preparation itself and also for the adjustment of the spinning process with the different variants. Ultimately, after all, the project aims at coordinating the processes of mechanical preparation and spinning as processing in order to achieve optimum results. At the same time, determining the quality criteria of the fibers produced is not trivial. This also requires the further development of processes and test methods that can be implemented productively in industry and that allow the quality of the fibers produced to be assessed effectively and unaffected by residual yarns, for example. What is really remarkable is the interest and willingness of the industry to drive the project work forward. The considerable quantities of materials required for our trials were purchased from ReSales Textilhandel und -recycling GmbH, Altex Textil-Recycling GmbH & Co. KG and Gebrüder Otto GmbH & Co. KG. Furthermore, with Temafa Maschinenfabrik GmbH, Nomaco GmbH & Co. KG, Schill + Seilacher GmbH, Spinnerei Neuhof GmbH & Co. KG and Maschinenfabrik Rieter AG, many members of the project-supporting committee are actively involved in the project, from consulting to the providing of technologies. The company Textechno Herbert Stein GmbH & Co. KG has provided a testing device of the type MDTA4 for the duration of the project and supports our work with regard to the evaluation of the mechanically prepared fibers. We are of course particularly pleased about this, as it has allowed us to look at and analyze several technologies in both mechanical preparation, testing and spinning. We expect to be able to make more detailed statements at the beginning of the coming year.

Which approaches do you think are particularly promising?
With regard to technologies, we must refer to the evaluation and analysis of the trials, which are currently still ongoing. We will be able to go into more detail in the first quarter of next year.

Of course, things are already emerging. With meta-aramid waste, promising approaches could be found very quickly; with post-consumer cotton, this is considerably more complex. Obviously, there is a link between the quality of the raw material and the quality of the products. In some cases, we have already been able to determine very low average fiber lengths in the procured goods; to a certain extent, these are of course directly reflected in the output of our processes. From this, and this is not a new finding, a great importance of the design of the textiles is again derived.

What are the challenges?
In addition to the expected high short fiber content, the residual yarns after the tearing process are an issue of particular focus. The proportion of these residual yarns can vary between the materials and preparation technologies, but the further dissolution of the products of the tearing process is essential.

If the processes are considered further in a utilization phase, the question of design naturally also arises for the best possible use of recycled fibers. Many problems, but also the approaches to solutions for the use of comparatively short fibers, can also be expected to apply to the (multiple) use of mechanically recycled fibers.

Can we speak of upcycling in the final product?
We see yarn-to-yarn recycling neither as upcycling nor downcycling, but as closed-loop recycling. The background is that the products are to go into the same application from which they came and have to compete with primary material. This means that certain specific requirements have to be met and at the same time there is considerable price pressure. In the case of downcycling, a significant reduction in properties is accepted, while in the case of upcycling, the higher-priced application can make up for the reprocessing effort. In the attempt to produce yarn material again from yarn material, both are only permissible to a small extent. This represents the particular challenge.

What does a recyclate prepared from used textiles mean for the spinning process?
Part of this question is to be answered in the project by the detailed classification of the processed fibers and is thus the subject of the tests currently underway. It turns out that, in addition to the rather obvious points such as significantly reduced fiber length, process disturbances due to undissolved fabrics and yarn pieces, there are also less obvious aspects to be considered, such as a significantly increased outgoing quantity for processing in the spinning process. The outgoing quantity is of particular interest here, because in the end the newly produced yarn should also contain a considerable proportion of prepared fibers.

What consequences does this have for textile machinery manufacturing?
The consequences that can already be estimated at the present time are that, particularly in the processing of cotton, the machinery in the spinning preparatory mill is specialized in the processing of (new) natural fibers with a certain amount of dirt. In contrast to new fibers, processed fibers are clean fibers with a significantly higher proportion of short fibers. Elements that are good at removing dirt also reject an increased amount of short fibers, which can lead to unintentionally high waste quantities under certain circumstances. It is therefore necessary to adapt the established machine technology to the new requirement profile of the raw material "processed fibers". Analogous adaptations are probably necessary along the entire processing chain up to the yarn. In the drafting system of the spinning machine, of course, this is due more to the high short fiber ratio than to elements that have been optimized for cleaning out dirt and foreign substances.

Source:

Textination GmbH

(c) nova-Institut GmbH
07.12.2021

Finalists for „Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year 2022” announced

Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year 2022: Cellulose Fibre Solutions are expanding from hygiene and textiles as well as non-wovens up to alternatives for carbon fibres for light-weight applications.

Great submissions made the nomination for the Innovation Award difficult. All of them present promising sustainable solutions in the field of cellulose fibres value chain. Six of them now get the chance to demonstrate their potential to a wide audience in Cologne (Germany), and online.

Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year 2022: Cellulose Fibre Solutions are expanding from hygiene and textiles as well as non-wovens up to alternatives for carbon fibres for light-weight applications.

Great submissions made the nomination for the Innovation Award difficult. All of them present promising sustainable solutions in the field of cellulose fibres value chain. Six of them now get the chance to demonstrate their potential to a wide audience in Cologne (Germany), and online.

For the second time, nova-Institute grants the “Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year” within the framework of the “International Conference on Cellulose Fibres 2022” (2-3 February 2022). The advisory board of the conference nominated six  products, ranging from cellulose made of orange- and wood pulp to a novel technology for cellulose fibre production. The presentations, election of the winner by the conference audience and the award ceremony will take place on the first day of the conference.

Cellulose fibres show an increasingly expanding wide range of applications, while at the same time markets are driven by technological developments and political framework conditions, especially bans and restrictions on plastics and increasing sustainability requirements. The conference provides rich information on opportunities for cellulose fibres through policy assessment, a session on sustainability, recycling and alternative feedstocks as well as latest development in pulp, cellulose fibres and yarns. This includes application such as non-wovens, packaging and composites.

Here are the nominees:
Carbon Fibres from Wood – German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research Denkendorf (Germany)
The HighPerCellCarbon® technology is a sustainable and alternative process for the production of carbon fibres made from wood. The technology starts with wet spinning of cellulosic fibres using ionic liquids (IL) as direct solvent in an environmentally friendly, closed loop filament spinning process (HighPerCell® technology). These filaments are directly converted into carbon fibres by a low-pressure stabilisation process, followed by a suitable carbonisation process. No exhaust fumes or toxic by-products are formed during the whole process. Furthermore, the approach allows a complete recycling of solvent and precursor fibres, creating a unique and environmentally friendly process. Carbon fibres are used in many lightweight applications and the fibres are a sustainable alternative to fossil-based ones.

Fibers365, Truly Carbon-Negative Virgin Fibres from Straw – Fibers365 (Germany)
Fibers365 are the first carbon-negative virgin straw fibres on the market. The Fibers365 concept is based on a unique, state of the art process to provide functional, carbon negative, and competitive non-wood biomass products such as virgin fibres for paper, packaging and textile purposes as well as high value process energy, biopolymer and fertilizer side streams. The products are extracted from the stems of annual food plants such as straw by a chemical-free, regional, farm level steam explosion pulping technology, allowing an easy separation of the fibres from sugars, lignin, organic acid and minerals. In the case of annual plants, CO2 emissions are recaptured within 12 months from their production date, offering “instant”, yearly compensation of corresponding emissions.

Iroony® Hemp and Flax Cellulose – RBX Créations (France)
Iroony® is a branded cellulose made by RBX Créations from hemp. This resistant hemp plant grows quickly within in a few months, massively captures carbon and displays a high content of cellulose. The biomass is directly collected from French farmers who cultivate without chemicals or irrigation, in extended rotation cycles, contributing to soil regeneration and biodiversity. For a diversified supply, the hemp can be combined with organically-grown flax. Through its patented process, RBX Créations extracts high-purity cellulose, perfectly suitable for spinning technologies such as HighPerCell® of DITF research centre. The resulting fibres display versatile properties of fineness, tenacity and stretch, for applications like clothing or technical textiles. Iroony® combines low impact, trackability and performance.

SPINNOVA, Sustainable Textile Fibre without Harmful Chemicals – Spinnova (Finland)
Spinnova’s innovative technology enables production of sustainable textile fibres in a mechanical process, without dissolving or any harmful chemicals. The process involves use of paper-grade pulp and mechanical refining to turn pulp into microfibrillated cellulose (MFC). The fibre suspension consisting of MFC is extruded to form textile fibre, without regeneration processes. The Spinnova process does not generate any side waste, and the environmental footprint of SPINNOVA® including 65 % less CO2 emissions and 99 % less water compared to cotton production. Spinnova’s solution is also scalable: Spinnova targets to reach 1 million tonnes annual production capacity in the next 10 to 12 years.    

Sustainable Menstruation Panties: Application-driven Fibre Functionalisation – Kelheim Fibres (Germany)
Kelheim’s plant-based and biodegradable fibres contribute significantly to a sustainable future in the field of reusable hygiene textiles. Through innovative functionalisation they are specifically adjusted to the requirements of the single layers and thereby reach a performance comparable to that of synthetic fibres. A unique duality in fibre technology is created: sustainably manufactured cellulosic fibres that allow for high wearing comfort and reusability with extraordinary, durable performance. Fibre concepts comprise Celliant® Viscose, an in-fibre infrared solution and Danufil® Fibres in the top sheet, Galaxy, a trilobal fibre for the ADL, Bramante, a hollow viscose fibre, in the absorbing core and a water repellent woven fabric, a biodegradable PLA film or a sustainable coating as a back sheet.

TENCEL™ branded Lyocell Fibre made of Orange and Wood Pulp – Orange Fiber (Italy)
Orange Fiber is the world's first company to produce a sustainable textile fibre from a patented process for the extraction of cellulose to be spun from citrus juice leftovers, which are more than 1 million tonnes a year just in Italy. The result of our partnership with Lenzing Group, leading global producer of wood-based specialty fibres, is the first ever TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibre made of orange and wood pulp. A novel cellulosic fibre to further inspire sustainability across the value chain and push the boundaries of innovation. This fibre, part of the TENCEL™ Limited Edition initiative, is characterized by soft appeal and high moisture absorbance and has already obtained the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certificate and is undergoing a diverse set of other sustainability assessments.

(c) Toray
23.11.2021

Toray Industries: A Concept to change Lives

Founded in January 1926, Tokyo-based Japanese chemical company Toray Industries, Inc. is known as the world's largest producer of PAN (polyacrylonitrile)-based carbon fibers. But its overall portfolio includes much more. Textination spoke with Koji Sasaki, General Manager of the Textile Division of Toray Industries, Inc. about innovative product solutions, new responsibilities and the special role of chemical companies in today's world.

Toray Industries is a Japanese company that - originating in 1926 as a producer of viscose yarns - is on the home stretch to its 100th birthday. Today, the Toray Group includes 102 Japanese companies and 180 overseas. They operate in 29 countries. What is the current significance of the fibers and textiles business unit for the success of your company?

Founded in January 1926, Tokyo-based Japanese chemical company Toray Industries, Inc. is known as the world's largest producer of PAN (polyacrylonitrile)-based carbon fibers. But its overall portfolio includes much more. Textination spoke with Koji Sasaki, General Manager of the Textile Division of Toray Industries, Inc. about innovative product solutions, new responsibilities and the special role of chemical companies in today's world.

Toray Industries is a Japanese company that - originating in 1926 as a producer of viscose yarns - is on the home stretch to its 100th birthday. Today, the Toray Group includes 102 Japanese companies and 180 overseas. They operate in 29 countries. What is the current significance of the fibers and textiles business unit for the success of your company?

The fibers’ and textiles’ business is both the starting point and the foundation of Toray's business development today. We started producing viscose yarns in 1926 and conducted our own research and development in nylon fibers as early as 1940. And since new materials usually require new processing methods, Toray also began investing in its own process technology at an early stage. On the one hand, we want to increase our sales, and on the other hand, we want to expand the application possibilities for our materials. For this reason, Toray also began to expand its business from pure fibers to textiles and even clothing. This allows us to better respond to our customers' needs while staying at the forefront of innovation.

Over the decades, Toray has accumulated a great deal of knowledge in polymer chemistry and organic synthesis chemistry - and this know-how is the foundation for almost all of our other business ventures. Today, we produce a wide range of advanced materials and high-value-added products in plastics, chemicals, foils, carbon fiber composites, electronics and information materials, pharmaceuticals, medicine and water treatment. However, fibers and textiles remain our most important business area, accounting for around 40% of the company's sales.

What understanding, what heritage is still important to you today? And how do you live out a corporate philosophy in the textile sector that you formulate as "Contributing to society through the creation of new value with innovative ideas, technologies and products"?

Toray has consistently developed new materials that the world has never seen before. We do this by focusing on our four core technologies: Polymer chemistry, organic synthetic chemistry, biotechnology and nanotechnology. We do this by focusing on our four core technologies: Polymer chemistry, organic synthetic chemistry, biotechnology and nanotechnology. For textiles, this means we use new polymer structures, spinning technologies and processing methods to develop yarns with unprecedented properties. We always focus on the needs and problems of the market and our customers.

This approach enables us to integrate textiles with new functions into our everyday lives that natural fibers and materials cannot accomplish. For example, we offer sportswear and underwear that absorb water excellently and dry very quickly, or rainwear and outdoor clothing with excellent water-repellent properties that feature a less bulky inner lining. Other examples include antibacterial underwear, uniforms, or inner linings that provide a hygienic environment and reduce the growth of odor-causing bacteria. People enjoy the convenience of these innovative textiles every day, and we hope to contribute to their daily comfort and improve their lives in some way.

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 sustainable development goals – simply known as the 2030 Agenda, which came into force on January 01, 2016. Countries were given 15 years to achieve them by 2030. In your company, there is a TORAY VISION 2030 and a TORAY SUSTAINABILITY VISION. How do you apply these principles and goals to the textile business? What role does sustainability play for this business area?

Sustainability is one of the most important issues facing the world today - not only in the textile sector, but in all industries. We in the Toray Group are convinced that we can contribute to solving various problems in this regard with our advanced materials. At the same time, the trend towards sustainability offers interesting new business approaches. In our sustainability vision, we have set four goals that the world should achieve by 2050. And we have defined which problems need to be addressed to achieve this.

We must:

  1. accelerate measures to combat climate change,
  2. implement sustainable, recycling-oriented solutions in the use of resources and in production,
  3. provide clean water and air, and
  4. contribute to better healthcare and hygiene for people around the world.

We will drive this agenda forward by promoting and expanding the use of materials that respond to environmental issues. In the textile sector, for example, we offer warming and cooling textiles – by eliminating the need for air conditioning or heating in certain situations, they can help reduce energy costs. We also produce environmentally friendly textiles that do not contain certain harmful substances such as fluorine, as well as textiles made from biomass, which use plant-based fibers instead of conventional petrochemical materials. Our product range also includes recycled materials that reduce waste and promote effective use of resources.

The TORAY VISION 2030, on the other hand, is our medium-term strategic plan and looks at the issue of sustainability from a different angle: Toray has defined the path to sustainable and healthy corporate growth in it. In this plan, we are focusing on two major growth areas: Our Green Innovation Business, which aims to solve environmental, resource and energy problems, and the Life Innovation Business, which focuses on improving medical care, public health, personal safety and ultimately a longer expectancy of life.

Innovation by Chemistry is the claim of the Toray Group. In a world where REACH and Fridays for Future severely restrict the scope of the chemical industry, the question arises as to what position chemistry can have in the textile industry. How do chemistry, innovation and sustainability fit together here?

The chemical industry is at a turning point today. The benefits that this industry can bring to civilization are still enormous, but at the same time, disadvantages such as the waste of resources and the negative impact on the environment and ecosystems are becoming increasingly apparent. In the future, the chemical industry will have to work much more towards sustainability - there is no way around it.

As far as textiles are concerned, we believe there are several ways to make synthetic materials more sustainable in the future. One of these, as I said, is materials made from plants instead of petrochemical raw materials. Another is to reduce the amount of raw materials used in production in the first place – this can be achieved, for example, by collecting and recycling waste materials from production or sales. Biodegradable materials that reduce the impact of waste products on the environment are another option worth pursuing, as is the reduction of environmentally harmful substances used in the production process. We are already looking at all of these possibilities in Toray's synthetic textiles business. At the same time, by the way, we make sure to save energy in our own production and minimize the impact on the environment.

Toray's fibers & textiles segment focuses on synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester and acrylic, as well as other functional fibers. In recent years, there has been a clear trend on the market towards cellulosic fibers, which are also being traded as alternatives to synthetic products. How do you see this development – on the one hand for the Toray company, and on the other hand under the aspect of sustainability, which the cellulosic competitors claim for themselves with the renewable raw material base?

Natural fibers, including cellulose fibers and wool, are environmentally friendly in that they can be easily recycled and are rapidly biodegradable after disposal. However, to truly assess their environmental impact, a number of other factors must also be considered: Primarily, there is the issue of durability: precisely because natural fibers are natural, it is difficult to respond to a rapid increase in demand, and quality is not always stable due to weather and other factors.

Climatic changes such as extreme heat, drought, wind, floods and damages from freezing can affect the quantity and quality of the production of natural fibers, so that the supply is not always secured. In order to increase production, not only does land have to be cleared, but also large amounts of water and pesticides have to be used to cultivate it – all of which is harmful to the environment.

Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, are industrial products manufactured in controlled factory environments. This makes it easier to manage fluctuations in production volume and ensure consistent quality. In addition, certain functional properties such as resilience, water absorption, quick drying and antibacterial properties can be embedded into the material, which can result in textiles lasting longer in use.

So synthetic fibers and natural fibers, including cellulose fibers, have their own advantages and disadvantages – there is no panacea here, at least not at the moment. We believe: It is important to ensure that there are options that match the consumer's awareness and lifestyle. This includes comfort in everyday life and sustainability at the same time.

To what extent has the demand for recycled products increased? Under the brand name &+™, Toray offers a fiber made from recycled PET bottles. Especially with the "raw material base: PET bottles", problems can occur with the whiteness of the fiber. What distinguishes your process from that of other companies and to what extent can you compete with new fibers in terms of quality?

During the production of the "&+" fiber, the collected PET bottles are freed from all foreign substances using special washing and filtering processes. These processes have not only allowed us to solve the problem of fiber whiteness – by using filtered, high-purity recycled polyester chips, we can also produce very fine fibers and fibers with unique cross sections. Our proven process technologies can also be used to incorporate specific textures and functions of Toray into the fiber. In addition, "&+" contains a special substance in the polyester that allows the material to be traced back to the recycled PET bottle fibers used in it.

We believe that this combination of aesthetics, sustainability and functionality makes the recycled polyester fiber "&+" more competitive than those of other companies. And indeed, we have noticed that the number of requests is steadily increasing as companies develop a greater awareness of sustainability as early as the product planning stage.

How is innovation management practiced in Toray's textile division, and which developments that Toray has worked on recently are you particularly proud of?

The textile division consists of three sub-divisions focusing on the development and sale of fashion textiles (WOMEN'S & MEN'S WEAR FABRICS DEPT.), sports and outdoor textiles (SPORTS WEAR & CLOTHING MATERIALS FABRICS DEPT.) and, specifically for Japan, textiles for uniforms used in schools, businesses and the public sector (UNIFORM & ADVANCED TEXTILES DEPT.).

In the past, each division developed its own materials for their respective markets and customers. However, in 2021, we established a collaborative space to increase synergy and share information about textiles developed in different areas with the entire department. In this way, salespeople can also offer their customers materials developed in other departments and get ideas for developing new textiles themselves.

I believe that the new structure will also help us to respond better to changes in the market. We see, for example, that the boundaries between workwear and outdoor are blurring – brands like Engelbert Strauss are a good example of this trend. Another development that we believe will accelerate after the Corona pandemic is the focus on green technologies and materials. This applies to all textile sectors, and we need to work more closely together to be at the forefront of this.

How important are bio-based polyesters in your research projects? How do you assess the future importance of such alternatives?

I believe that these materials will play a major role in the coming years. Polyester is made from purified terephthalic acid (PTA), which again consists of paraxylene (PX) and ethylene glycol (EG). In a first step, we already offer a material called ECODEAR™, which uses sugar cane molasses waste as a raw material for EG production.

About 30% of this at least partially bio polyester fiber is therefore biologically produced, and the material is used on a large scale for sportswear and uniforms. In the next step, we are working on the development of a fully bio-based polyester fiber in which the PTA component is also obtained from biomass raw materials, such as the inedible parts of sugar cane and wood waste.

Already in 2011, we succeeded in producing a prototype of such a polyester fiber made entirely from biomass. However, the expansion of production at the PX manufacturer we are working with has proven to be challenging. Currently, we are only producing small sample quantities, but we hope to start mass production in the 2020s.

Originally starting with yarn, now a leading global producer of synthetic fibers for decades, you also work to the ready-made product. The range extends from protective clothing against dust and infections to smart textiles and functional textiles that record biometric data. What are you planning in these segments?

In the field of protective clothing, our LIVMOA™ brand is our flagship material. It combines high breathability to reduce moisture inside the garment with blocking properties that keep dust and other particles out. The textile is suitable for a wide range of work environments, including those with high dust or grease levels and even cleanrooms. LIVMOA™ 5000, a high quality, also demonstrates antiviral properties and helps to ease the burden on medical personnel. The material forms an effective barrier against bacteria and viruses and is resistant to hygroscopic pressure. Due to its high breathability, it also offers high wearing comfort.

Our smart textile is called hitoe™. This highly conductive fabric embeds a conductive polymer – a polymer compound that allows electricity to pass through - into the nanofiber fabric. hitoe™ is a high-performance material for detecting biosignals, weak electrical signals that we unconsciously emit from our bodies.

In Japan, Toray has developed products for electrocardiographic measurements (ECGs) that meet the safety and effectiveness standards of medical devices. And in 2016, we submitted an application to the Japanese medical administrative authorities to register a hitoe™ device as a general medical device – this registration process is now complete. Overall, we expect the healthcare sector, particularly medical and nursing applications, to grow – not least due to increasing infectious diseases and growing health awareness among the elderly population. We will therefore continue to develop and sell new products for this market.

In 1885, Joseph Wilson Swan introduced the term "artifical silk" for the nitrate cellulose filaments he artificially produced. Later, copper, viscose and acetate filament yarns spun on the basis of cellulose were also referred to as artifical silk. Toray has developed a new innovative spinning technology called NANODESIGN™, which enables nano-level control of the fineness and shape of synthetic fibers. This is expected to create functions, aesthetics and textures that have not existed before. For which applications do you intend to use these products?

In NANODESIGN™ technology, the polymer is split into a number of microscopic streams, which are then recombined in a specific pattern to form a new fiber. By controlling the polymer flow with extreme precision, the fineness and cross-sectional shape of the fiber can be determined much more accurately than was previously possible with conventional microfiber and nanofiber spinning technologies. In addition, this technology enables the combination of three or more polymer types with different properties in one fiber – conventional technologies only manage two polymer types. This technology therefore enables Toray to specify a wide range of textures and functions in the production of synthetic fibers that were not possible with conventional synthetic fibers – and even to outperform the texture and feel of natural fibers. Kinari, our artificial silk developed with NANODESIGN technology, is a prime example here, but the technology holds many more possibilities – especially with regard to our sustainability goals.

What has the past period of the pandemic meant for Toray's textile business so far? To what extent has it been a burden, but in which areas has it also been a driver of innovation? What do you expect of the next 12 months?

The Corona catastrophe had a dramatic impact on the company's results: The Corona catastrophe had a dramatic impact on the company's results: In the financial year 2020, Toray's total sales fell by about 10% to 188.36 billion yen (about 1.44 billion euros) and operating profit by about 28% to 90.3 billion yen (about 690 million euros). The impact on the fiber and textile business was also significant, with sales decreasing by around 13% to 719.2 billion yen (approx. 5.49 billion euros) and operating profit by around 39% to 36.6 billion yen (approx. 280 million euros).

In the financial year 2021, however, the outlook for the fibers and textiles sector is significantly better: So far, the segment has exceeded its goals overall, even if there are fluctuations in the individual areas and applications. In the period from April to June, we even returned to the level of 2019. This is partly due to the recovering sports and outdoor sector. The fashion apparel market, on the other hand, remains challenging due to changing lifestyles that have brought lock-downs and home-office. We believe that a full recovery in business will not occur until the travel and leisure sector returns to pre-Corona levels.

Another side effect of the pandemic that we feel very strongly, is the growing concern about environmental issues and climate change. As a result, the demand for sustainable materials has also increased in the apparel segment. In the future, sustainability will be mandatory for the development and marketing of new textiles in all market segments. Then again, there will always be the question of how sustainable a product really is, and data and traceability will become increasingly important. In the coming years, the textile division will keep a close eye on these developments and develop materials that meet customers' needs.

About the person:
Koji Sasaki joined Toray in 1987. In his more than 30 years with the company, he has held various positions, including a four-year position as Managing Director of Toray International Europe GmbH in Frankfurt from 2016 to 2020. Since 2020, Koji Sasaki has been responsible for Toray's textile division and serves as acting chairman of Toray Textiles Europe Ltd. In these roles, he supervises the company's development, sales and marketing activities in the apparel segment, including fashion, sports and work or school uniforms.

The interview was conducted by Ines Chucholowius, Managing partner Textination GmbH

(c) PERFORMANCE DAYS
16.11.2021

PERFORMANCE DAYS 2021: Hybrid Event in December

From December 1 to 2, 2021, the industry will meet up again live at the trade fair center in Munich. Trade visitors, industry insiders and experts can look forward to inter-personal exchanges, intensive networking, exciting fabric innovations and various other program highlights. The fair will go ahead in strict compliance with the current official hygiene regulations and in close cooperation with the Messe München authorities. Planned as a hybrid event, PERFORMANCE DAYS offers the possibility to follow what is on offer digitally.

From December 1 to 2, 2021, the industry will meet up again live at the trade fair center in Munich. Trade visitors, industry insiders and experts can look forward to inter-personal exchanges, intensive networking, exciting fabric innovations and various other program highlights. The fair will go ahead in strict compliance with the current official hygiene regulations and in close cooperation with the Messe München authorities. Planned as a hybrid event, PERFORMANCE DAYS offers the possibility to follow what is on offer digitally.

Live in Munich: PERFORMANCE DAYS in Hall A6
In Hall A6 on the grounds of the New Trade Center in Munich, trade visitors can look forward to an extensive portfolio of exhibitors showcasing their latest functional textiles and fabric innovations for the upcoming winter season, winter 2023/24. Exhibitors who are unable to present their highlights on site can also be accessed via the PERFORMANCE DAYS LOOP digital platform throughout the course of the fair. As part of the newly developed “remote booths” concept, trade visitors will for the first time also find collections from exhibitors who cannot be in Munich in person for the trade show. Interactive exchanges via chat, call or video call is planned.

Two further PERFORMANCE DAYS fairs are planned as live events: The Functional Fabric Fair by PERFORMANCE DAYS in Portland, Oregon, USA on November 17-18, 2021 and Functional Textiles Shanghai by PERFORMANCE DAYS on December 6-7, 2021. Registration is open at www.functionalfabricfair.com/ and www.functionaltextilesshanghai.com/

PERFORMANCE FORUM together with USA Fair
As part of the PERFORMANCE FORUM, a select jury of experts assembles for two days prior to the fair to exchange views on the latest fabric innovations for the winter 23/24 season. In order to ensure a more global market overview, the PERFORMANCE FORUM will curate highlights for the first time in conjunction with the US fair in Portland. Consequently, the next fair in Munich will not only feature the latest products from exhibitors at the Munich fair, but also highlights from the fair in Portland. This year’s Focus Topic in cooperation with the Vaude Academy will engage with the topic “The Sustainable Future of Nylon” and a specific hand-chosen selection of fabric materials. Furthermore, as part of the winter fair, the “sustain & innovate” conference on sustainability, organized in close cooperation with SAZsport, will take an in-depth look at the topic comprising all its aspects along with speakers, webinars and discussion rounds. The program will be broadcast live from the fair and thus accessible for all who wish to follow it online in digital form.  

Eco Award and Performance Award for Innovative Winter Fabrics 23/24
This year, in addition to a PERFORMANCE AWARD, the jury also presented an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD. An integral part of the winter edition of PERFORMANCE DAYS is the presentation of the fabric highlights and accessory trends in the respective categories for the Winter Season 2023/24 at the PERFORMANCE FORUM. The well-known segments will be joined for the first time this winter by the Shoes & Bags category, while the renowned Lifestyle Category will be continued under its new title, “Function Meets Fashion”. The high level of innovation and quality of many of the fabrics submitted this year are particularly striking.

“The fusion of the two PERFORMANCE FORUMs of our fairs in Munich and Portland has lead to a significant increase in quality and innovation. Thanks to the new partnership, not only were we able to get new, exciting manufacturers on board, but there was also a significant increase in participation in general“, says Marco Weichert, CEO of PERFORMANCE DAYS.

Natural fabrics such as organic cotton, wool or canvas remain in demand. These are joined by significantly more plant fibers such as hemp, coconut shell, bamboo or fibers derived from pineapple or banana leaves. The additional use of castor oil, zinc or ginger supports the antibacterial effect, ensures enhanced breathability, optimum temperature management and makes the fabric soft, light and kind to the skin. The topic of recycling presents itself in various new facets and features exciting trends. The portfolio ranges from the recycling of marine waste, such as old buoys, plastic waste or fishing nets, to the recycling of waste from the automotive and computer industries, such as old car tires or computer chips. Natural dyeing methods are also gaining increasing importance, as is the recycling of materials into the textile loop.

In the Marketplace, visitors have the opportunity to view over 13,000+ products from exhibitors, including the fabric highlights of the individual categories at the PERFORMANCE FORUM. In order to be able to present the fabrics to the digital visitors as realistically as possible in terms of feel, design and structure, the PERFORMANCE FORUM has been equipped with groundbreaking 3D technology, including innovative tools such as 3D images, video animations and U3M files for download.

In addition to the PERFORMANCE AWARD WINNER, which goes to drielease/Optimer, there is also an ECO PERFORMANCE AWARD WINNER, awarded to Long Advance.

Completely new look: With the innovative Dricomfort Geo, drirelease turns to a blend of 6 % Lycra, 44 % polyester and 50 % recycled polyester. The processing of the various fibers in the knitting process, in combination with the Dricomfort GEO finishing, makes the reversible interlock fabric unique.

Unique, new pattern and knit designs are possible thanks to a special jacquard knitting process used to process the recycled polyester yarn. The material impresses with its lightness and versatility. The GEO technology also ensures optimal body temperature management. The adaptable technology provides excellent thermal regulation features through efficient heat management and enhanced moisture transport to optimize comfort and performance. Moreover, GEO boasts UV protection up to 50+.

New recycling variant: Long Advance presents LNT-21191-Z4C, a post consumer nylon that opens up a new world to recycling. The fabric, which consists of 7 % elastane and 93% recycled polyamide via Mass Balance, introduces new facets to the topic of recycling. BASF is using tire waste from now on and processes them into a new fiber. fiber. Due to the recycling, the need for synthetic fabrics are reduced to replace petroleum-based plastics with plastics made from renewable raw materials.

Photo: pixabay
19.10.2021

Micromechanical Simulation of the Resilience of Nonwovens

Nonwovens are an important component of different products of several uses, e.g. transport of humidity in sanitary products, insulation materials or filters. Nonwovens are usually produced on large engineering facilities. For this, experimental studies of design with regard to the optimization of these nonwoven-structures prove to be very difficult.

Influence Design Parameters
There are so many parameters of design, as for example fibers, surface weight or type of nonwoven bonding and finishing that are affecting the properties of nonwovens. For the change of one single parameter, e.g. the material of fiber, it is necessary to adapt the whole process of fabrication from the spinning of the fibers via their stacking to the nonwoven hardening.

Nonwovens are an important component of different products of several uses, e.g. transport of humidity in sanitary products, insulation materials or filters. Nonwovens are usually produced on large engineering facilities. For this, experimental studies of design with regard to the optimization of these nonwoven-structures prove to be very difficult.

Influence Design Parameters
There are so many parameters of design, as for example fibers, surface weight or type of nonwoven bonding and finishing that are affecting the properties of nonwovens. For the change of one single parameter, e.g. the material of fiber, it is necessary to adapt the whole process of fabrication from the spinning of the fibers via their stacking to the nonwoven hardening.

Following the production of such a prototype a time consuming and cost-intensive characterization of the properties of nonwovens carried out experimentally has to be done.  Therefore, for this reason detailed studies considering several parameters of design are uneconomic.

Thus, micromechanical models of simulation are developed at Fraunhofer ITWM in cooperation with Procter & Gamble Service GmbH (P & G). By means of these models it is possible to forecast numerically the effective properties of nonwovens for diverse parameters of design. To virtually modify and optimize individual parameters in this connection it is only necessary to adapt the corresponding inputs of the model.

Fast Predictions Possible
In this case, the focus of the numerical predictions is primarily lying on the time-dependent behavior of the nonwovens.  The dynamic properties can be determined by means of numerical simulation of cyclic measurements. In doing so, a good correspondence of simulation and measurements is obtained.

Compared to experiments the required time of simulation for the behavior in case of low frequencies does not change. Therefore, we can obtain rapid forecasts for the long-term behavior (month till years) and the corresponding resilience of nonwovens using numerical models. A lot of alternatives can be simulated and studied within a few hours.

The fact that not only effective (macroscopic) properties of nonwovens can be computed, but also local physical values such as distribution of tension in binding agents and fibres is a further advantage of this micromechanical  approach. So, the simulation contributes to a better understanding of the properties of nonwovens.

Future designs deal with an extension of the models with regard to simulation of the productionv processes. By this, a fully digitalized layout design of nonwovens, from the manufacturing process till the optimization of functionality is possible.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM

Photo: pixabay
21.09.2021

Virtual Quality Inspection Optimizes Production of Filter Nonwovens

Nonwoven production received more attention than ever before from the general public in Corona times, because the technical textile is crucial for infection protection. The ultra-fine nonwoven products are manufactured in so-called meltblown processes. A cross-departmental team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern is optimizing the entire production chain in the »ProQuIV« project. Simulations help to guarantee the product quality of the filter material despite fluctuations in production.

Nonwoven production received more attention than ever before from the general public in Corona times, because the technical textile is crucial for infection protection. The ultra-fine nonwoven products are manufactured in so-called meltblown processes. A cross-departmental team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern is optimizing the entire production chain in the »ProQuIV« project. Simulations help to guarantee the product quality of the filter material despite fluctuations in production.

The abbreviation »ProQuIV« stands for »Production and Quality Optimization of Nonwoven Infection Protection Clothing«. This is because bottlenecks in the production of these materials were particularly evident at the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis. For the meltblown nonwovens, this optimization of the product quality is also particularly difficult because the textiles react very sensitively to fluctuations in the manufacturing processes and material impurities.

Digital Twin Keeps an Eye on the Big Picture
»Meltblown« is the name of the industrial manufacturing process whose ultra-fine fiber nonwovens are responsible for providing the crucial filtering function in face masks. In this process, the molten polymer is forced through nozzles into a forward-flowing, high-speed stream. It is stretched and cooled in a highly turbulent air flow.

»The overall process of filter media production – from the polymer melt to the filter medium – presents a major challenge in simulation,« explains Dr. Konrad Steiner, head of the »Flow and Materials Simulation« department. »In the project, we kept the big picture in mind and developed a completely integrated evaluation chain as a digital twin. In doing so, we take several key components into account at once: We simulate the typical production processes of nonwovens, the formation of the fiber structures and then the material properties – here, in particular, the filter efficiency. This allows us to quantitatively evaluate the influences of the manufacturing process on the product properties.« In each of these individual areas, Fraunhofer ITWM and its experts are among the leading research groups internationally.

Homogeneity of the Material – Fewer Clouds in the Simulation Sky
In the meltblown process, a key factor is the behavior of the filaments in the turbulent, hot and fast air flow. The properties of the filaments are strongly influenced by this air flow. The quality of the filaments – and thus the quality of the nonwovens – is influenced by many factors. Dr. Dietmar Hietel, head of the »Transport Processes« department, knows what this means more precisely in practice. His team has been working at Fraunhofer ITWM for years on the simulation of various processes involving filaments, threads, and fibers. »The focus of the project is the so-called cloudiness, i.e. the non-uniformity of the fiber distributions in the nonwoven,« explains Hietel. »We are investigating the question: How homogeneous is the fabric? Because the quality of the products can be greatly improved if we increase the uniformity. Our simulations help figure out how to do that.«

Objective Evaluation of the Homogeneity of Nonwovens
The researchers also use appropriate image analysis techniques to quantify this cloudiness. The power spectrum plays a special role here. »The cloudiness index (CLI) describes homogeneity complementary to local basis weight and its variance,« describes Dr. Katja Schladitz. She brings her expertise in image processing to the project. »Our CLI ensures a robust assessment of the homogeneity and can thus be used for different material classes and imaging techniques to be used as an objective measure.« The frequencies that go into the CLI calculation can be chosen so that the CLI is meaningful for the particular application area.

Filtration: How Efficient Are the Filters?
For the upscaling to industrial processes such as mask production, the ITWM expertise in filters is also included in the project. The »Filtration and Separation« team led by Dr. Ralf Kirsch has been working for years on the mathematical modeling and simulation of various separation processes.

»What's special about this project is that we calculated the efficiency of the filters for fluctuations of varying degrees in the fiber volume fraction,« emphasizes Kirsch. »This allows us to specify up to what level of cloudiness the required filter efficiency can be achieved at all.« As a current example of this, the figure depicts in the graphic the efficiency of a filter material for N95 masks as a function of the inhomogeneity of the nonwoven.

ITMW Methods Support Across the Entire Process Chain
In »ProQuIV«, digital twins and calculations from Fraunhofer ITWM support a holistic view and better understanding of the processes. The production of technical textiles thus not only becomes more efficient, but the nonwovens can be developed virtually without having to realize this in advance in a test facility. In this way, production capacities can be increased while maintaining or even increase the quality. Together with long-term partners from industry, the research can be put into practice quickly and efficiently.

Simulations save textile companies experiments, allow new insights, enable systematic parameter variations and solve upscaling problems that can otherwise lead to bad investments during the transition from laboratory plant to industrial plant. However, virtual implementation of nonwoven production also opens up new opportunities for optimization at other levels. For example, acoustic insulating nonwovens or even hygiene nonwovens can also be optimized in terms of their product quality precisely with regard to the material properties to be achieved – while taking into account the process fluctuations that occur.

The project is part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's »Fraunhofer versus Corona« program and was completed in April 2021. The results will flow into several follow-up projects with the nonwovens industry.