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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

Photo Pixabay
16.11.2022

Green chemistry transforms facemasks into Ethernet cables

Swansea University academics have pioneered a process which converts the carbon found in discarded facemasks to create high-quality single-walled carbon nanotubes (CNT) which were then used to make Ethernet cable with broadband quality.
 
The study, which has been published in Carbon Letters, outlines how this new green chemistry could be used to upcycle materials which would otherwise be thrown away and transform them into high value materials with real-world applications. The CNTs produced by this technique have the potential not only to be used in Ethernet cables, but also in the production of lightweight batteries used in electric cars and drones.

Swansea University academics have pioneered a process which converts the carbon found in discarded facemasks to create high-quality single-walled carbon nanotubes (CNT) which were then used to make Ethernet cable with broadband quality.
 
The study, which has been published in Carbon Letters, outlines how this new green chemistry could be used to upcycle materials which would otherwise be thrown away and transform them into high value materials with real-world applications. The CNTs produced by this technique have the potential not only to be used in Ethernet cables, but also in the production of lightweight batteries used in electric cars and drones.

Professor Alvin Orbaek White, of Swansea University’s Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI):
“Single-use facemasks are a real travesty for the recycling system as they create vast amounts of plastic waste - much of it ending up in our oceans. During the study, we established that the carbon inside the facemask can be used as a pretty good feedstock to make high-quality materials like CNTs.

“CNTs are highly sought-after because they have preferential physical properties and tend to be much more costly on an industrial scale. So, through this study, we demonstrated that we could make very high value materials by processing the CNTs from what are, essentially, worthless waste facemasks.”

The team also studied the energy costs involved in using this process and concluded that the technique was green not only in levels of resource consumption but also in the product value generation as opposed to waste creation. Also, the Ethernet cable produced using the CNTs was good quality and adhered to Category 5 transmission speeds while easily exceeding the benchmarks set for broadband internet in most countries, including the UK.

Professor Orbaek White said:
“Using CNT films in batteries instead of metal films has a lower impact on the environment as the use of carbon offsets the need for mining and extraction activities. This is a crucial piece of work as it contributes to not only a circular economy but is also scalable and is viable for industrial processing and has green chemistry at its core.”

Source:

Swansea University

(c) Oeti
31.05.2022

OEKO-TEX® Association celebrates 30th birthday

The international OEKO-TEX® Association, which consists of a total of 17 independent research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan, turns thirty this year. As one of the founding members, OETI is taking this as an opportunity to talk to OEKO-TEX® expert Helene Melnitzky (Head of the Ecology Department at OETI) about the role of the OEKO-TEX® Association, market trends and current OEKO-TEX® certifications and labels.

The international OEKO-TEX® Association, which consists of a total of 17 independent research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan, turns thirty this year. As one of the founding members, OETI is taking this as an opportunity to talk to OEKO-TEX® expert Helene Melnitzky (Head of the Ecology Department at OETI) about the role of the OEKO-TEX® Association, market trends and current OEKO-TEX® certifications and labels.

The international OEKO-TEX® Association is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year. What role has it played so far with regard to the product safety of textile and leather products?
Helene Melnitzky:
In the area product safety1, OEKO-TEX® has had a great impact over the last three decades by ensuring certain pollutant additives, some of which were found in large quantities in textiles 30 years ago, no longer exist. The OEKO-TEX® Association was also the first to limit certain heavy metals. Based on our actions, legal provisions were ultimately passed. We have been testing banned dyes since before there even was an EU regulation in this regard. Of course, we now test according to the EU regulation, but in this respect OEKO-TEX® was a clear trailblazer.

In addition to product safety, OEKO-TEX® has been working on the topics of ‘environmentally friendly textile products manufactured under fair working conditions for 30 years, which also included leather products for the last five years, and with STeP by OEKO-TEX® on the ‘certification of environmentally friendly production sites’ since 2013. In one way or another, we have been preparing the market for thirty years. In the process, we are always creating new things: currently the Impact Calculator and, in autumn-2022, a new certification for brands and retailers: RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS by OEKO-TEX®.

How does that benefit the customers of OEKO-TEX®?
Helene Melnitzky:
Customers can use these calculations for external communication to demonstrate on their products or webpages that their products have a lower footprint than their competitors. This means that customers sourcing everything regionally will have a smaller footprint than companies that source products from different countries. In the future, it will be necessary to display the water and carbon footprint on the product, so that consumers can decide whether they want to buy product A or B.

How is the aspect of fair working conditions taken into account?
Helene Melnitzky:
This topic has also been gaining significant momentum over the last ten years. There is now enough pressure on brands and retailers to improve local working conditions. We cover this area as part of our STeP by OEKO-TEX® certification2 with our ‘social responsibility’ module. The advantage for our customers is that they can subsequently use the MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label to show how they have performed in the social module.

What does Transparency with MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® mean?
Helene Melnitzky:
Everything that is written on the product is transparent. The MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label is a traceable product label for all types of textiles and leather items that have been produced in environmentally friendly factories and at safe and socially responsible workplaces. Furthermore, the MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label gives consumers the certainty that the textile or leather product is made from materials tested for harmful substances. In order to ensure that textile or leather products with the MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label have been produced using environmentally friendly processes under socially acceptable working conditions, manufacturing and wet production sites must be certified according to STeP by OEKO-TEX®.

For a year now, it has been possible to have recycled materials STANDARD 100 certified and display that certification as a hangtag to communicate that the product consists of a certain proportion3 of recycled materials. Which market demand is this certification addressing?
Helene Melnitzky:
There is an increasing demand that at least part of the product must be made from recycled material. This is partly attributable to market pressure because raw materials are scarce and expensive. However, we are also voluntarily informing consumers about recycling as part of the circular economy.

What is your outlook for the next few years?
Helene Melnitzky:
Producing textile and leather products in a more environmentally friendly and fair manner, while making the value chain more transparent, is a global challenge that sets new environmental standards. In the long term, however, it also involves important economic and social aspects. The goal is to raise awareness of these interdependencies and a common understanding of environmental issues – among producers and, of course, end consumers. It is clear that the demand for certified and traceable products is growing among consumers. This trend is reflected in purchasing behaviour and thus in manufacturing. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to do.


1 STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® und LEATHER STANDARD by OEKO-TEX®
2 The STeP by OEKO-TEX® certification includes the modules Chemical Management, Environmental Performance, Environmental Management, Quality Management, Occupational Health and Safety, and Social Responsibility
3 To qualify, the product must contain at least 20 per cent recycled material.

(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

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

Nicolas Meletiou, Pixabay
01.03.2022

Textiles and the environment: the role of design in Europe’s circular economy

From the perspective of European consumption, textiles have on average the fourth highest negative life cycle impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. A shift to a circular textile production and consumption system with longer use, and more reuse and recycling could reduce those impacts along with reductions in overall consumption. One important measure is circular design of textiles to improve product durability, repairability and recyclability and to ensure the uptake of secondary raw materials in new products.

Key messages

From the perspective of European consumption, textiles have on average the fourth highest negative life cycle impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. A shift to a circular textile production and consumption system with longer use, and more reuse and recycling could reduce those impacts along with reductions in overall consumption. One important measure is circular design of textiles to improve product durability, repairability and recyclability and to ensure the uptake of secondary raw materials in new products.

Key messages

  • In 2019, the EU textile and clothing sector had a turnover of EUR162 billion, employing over 1.5 million people across 160,000 companies. As was the case in many sectors, between 2019 and 2020, the COVID-19 crisis decreased turnover by 9% for textiles as a whole and by 17% for clothing.
  • In 2020, textile consumption in Europe had on average the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate change from a global life cycle perspective. It was the consumption area with the third highest impact on water and land use, and the fifth highest in terms of raw material use and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • To reduce the environmental impacts of textiles, a shift towards circular business models, including circular design, is crucial. This will need technical, social and business model innovation, as well as behavioural change and policy support.
  • Circular design is an important enabler of the transition towards sustainable production and consumption of textiles through circular business models. The design phase plays a critical role in each of the four pathways to achieving a circular textile sector: longevity and durability; optimised resource use; collection and reuse; and recycling and material use.

Textiles are identified as a key value chain in the EU circular economy action plan and will be addressed in the forthcoming European Commission’s 2022 EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles and EU sustainable products initiative. This briefing aims to improve our understanding of the environmental and climate impacts of textiles from a European perspective and to identify design principles and measures to increase circularity in textiles. It is underpinned by a report from the EEA’s European Topic Centre on Circular Economy and Resource Use available here.

1. Production, trade and consumption of textiles
Textiles is an important sector for the EU economy. In 2019, the EU textile and clothing sector had a turnover of EUR162 billion, employing over 1.5 million people in 160,000 companies. As was the case for many sectors, between 2019 and 2020, the COVID-19 health and economic crisis decreased turnover by 9% for textiles as a whole and by 17% for clothing (Euratex, 2021).

In 2020, 6.9 million tonnes of finished textile products were produced in the EU-27. EU production specialises in carpets, household textiles and other textiles (including non-woven textiles, technical and industrial textiles, ropes and fabrics). In addition to finished products, the EU produces intermediate products for textiles, such as fibres, yarns and fabrics (Köhler et al., 2021).

The textiles sector is labour intensive compared with others. Almost 13 million full-time equivalent workers were employed worldwide in the supply chain to produce the amount of clothing, textiles and footwear consumed in the EU-27 in 2020. This makes the textiles sector the third largest employer worldwide, after food and housing. Most production takes place in Asia, where low production costs come at the expense of workers’ health and safety.
 
Textiles are highly globalised, with Europe being a significant importer and exporter. In 2020, 8.7 million tonnes of finished textile products, with a value of EUR125 billion, were imported into the EU-27. Clothing accounts for 45% of imports in terms of volume, followed by household textiles, other textiles and footwear (Eurostat, 2021a). The EU imports mainly from China, Bangladesh and Turkey, and exports mainly to the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the United States (Euratex, 2020).

Consumption
European households consume large amounts of textile products. In 2019, as in 2018, Europeans spent on average EUR600 on clothing, EUR150 on footwear and EUR70 on household textiles (Köhler et al., 2021; Eurostat, 2021b).

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic, involving stay-at-home measures and the closure of companies and shops, decreased textile production and demand overall (Euratex, 2021). As a result, the consumption of clothing and footwear per person decreased in 2020, relative to 2019, while the consumption of household textiles slightly increased. Average textile consumption per person amounted to 6.0kg of clothing, 6.1kg of household textiles and 2.7kg of shoes in 2020 (see Figure 1).

Apart from this COVID-related drop in consumption in 2020, the estimated consumption of clothing and footwear stayed relatively constant over the last decade, with slight fluctuations between years (see Figure 2). Similarly, the consumption of household textiles was also relatively steady, with a slight increase over the decade.

When calculating the ‘estimated consumption’ based on production and trade data from 2020, and excluding industrial/technical textiles and carpets, total textile consumption is 15kg per person per year, consisting of, on average:

  • 6.0kg of clothing
  • 6.1kg of household textiles
  • 2.7kg footwear.

For 2020, this amounts to a total consumption of 6.6 million tonnes of textile products in Europe. Textile consumption estimates are uncertain, as they vary by study, often using different scopes and calculation methods.

2. Environmental and climate impacts of textiles
The production and consumption of textiles has significant impacts on the environment and climate change. Environmental impacts in the production phase result from the cultivation and production of natural fibres such as cotton, hemp and linen (e.g. use of land and water, fertilisers and pesticides) and from the production of synthetic fibres such as polyester and elastane (e.g. energy use, chemical feedstock) (ETC/WMGE, 2021b). Manufacturing textiles requires large amounts of energy and water and uses a variety of chemicals across various production processes. Distribution and retail are responsible for transport emissions and packaging waste.

During use and maintenance — washing, drying and ironing — electricity, water and detergents are used. Chemicals and microfibres are also emitted into the waste water. Meanwhile, textiles contribute to significant amounts of textile waste. At the end of their life, textiles often end up in general waste and are incinerated or landfilled. When textile waste is collected separately, textiles are sorted and reused, recycled or disposed of, depending on their quality and material composition. In 2017, it was estimated that less than 1% of all textiles worldwide are recycled into new products (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017).

To illustrate the magnitude of the impacts of textile consumption on raw material use, water and land use and greenhouse gas emissions compared with other consumption categories, we have updated our calculations of the life cycle environmental and climate impacts in the EU. We used input-output modelling based on data from the Exiobase database and Eurostat. In line with the reduced textile consumption level in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the environmental impacts decreased from 2019 to 2020.

Raw material use
Large amounts of raw materials are used for textile production. To produce all clothing, footwear and household textiles purchased by EU households in 2020, an estimated 175 million tonnes of primary raw materials were used, amounting to 391kg per person. Roughly 40% of this is attributable to clothes, 30% to household textiles and 30% to footwear. This ranks textiles as the fifth highest consumption category in Europe in terms of primary raw material use (see Figure 3).

The raw materials used include all types of materials used in producing natural and synthetic fibres, such as fossil fuels, chemicals and fertilisers. It also includes all building materials, minerals and metals used in the construction of production facilities. Transport and retail of the textile products are included as well. Only 20% of these primary raw materials are produced or extracted in Europe, with the remainder extracted outside Europe. This shows the global nature of the textiles value chain and the high dependency of European consumption on imports. This implies that 80% of environmental impacts generated by Europe’s textile consumption takes place outside Europe. For example, cotton farming, fibre production and garment construction mostly take place in Asia (ETC/WMGE, 2019).

Water use
Producing and handling textiles requires large quantities of water. Water use distinguishes between ‘blue’ water (surface water or groundwater consumed or evaporated during irrigation, industry processes or household use) and ‘green’ water (rain water stored in the soil, typically used to grow crops) (Hoekstra et al., 2012).

To produce all clothing, footwear and household textiles purchased by EU households in 2020, about 4,000 million m³ of blue water were required, amounting to 9m³ per person, ranking textiles’ water consumption in third place, after food and recreation and culture (see Figure 4).

Additionally, about 20,000 million m³ of green water was used, mainly for producing cotton, which amounts to 44m³ per person. Blue water is used fairly equally in producing clothing (40%), footwear (30%) and household and other textiles (30%). Green water is mainly consumed in producing clothing (almost 50%) and household textiles (30%), of which cotton production consumes the most.

Water consumption for textiles consumed in Europe mostly takes place outside Europe. It is estimated that producing 1kg of cotton requires about 10m³ of water, typically outside Europe (Chapagain et al., 2006).

Land use
Producing textiles, in particular natural textiles, requires large amounts of land. The land used in the supply chain of textiles purchased by European households in 2020 is estimated at 180,000 km², or 400m² per person. Only 8% of the land used is in Europe. Over 90% of the land use impact occurs outside Europe, mostly related to (cotton) fibre production in China and India (ETC/WMGE, 2019). Animal-based fibres, such as wool, also have a significant land use impact (Lehmann et al., 2018). This makes textiles the sector with the third highest impact on land use, after food and housing (see Figure 5). Of this, 43% is attributable to clothes, 35% to footwear (including leather shoes, which have a high land use impact because of the need for cattle pasture) and 23% to household and other textiles.

Greenhouse gas emissions
The production and consumption of textiles generate greenhouse gas emissions, in particular from resource extraction, production, washing and drying, and waste incineration. In 2020, producing textile products consumed in the EU generated greenhouse gas emissions of 121 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in total, or 270kg CO2e per person. This makes textiles the household consumption domain responsible for the fifth largest impact on climate change, after housing, food, transport and mobility, and recreation and culture (see Figure 6). Of this, 50% is attributable to clothes, 30% to household and other textiles, and 20% to footwear. While greenhouse gas emissions have a global effect, almost 75% are released outside Europe, mainly in the important textile-producing regions in Asia (ETC/WMGE, 2019).

About 80% of the total climate change impact of textiles occurs in the production phase. A further 3% occurs in distribution and retail, 14% in the use phase (washing, drying and ironing), and 3% during end of life (collection, sorting, recycling, incineration and disposal) (ECOS, 2021; Östlund et al., 2020).

Textiles made from natural fibres, such as cotton, generally have the lowest climate impact. Those made from synthetic fibres (especially nylon and acrylic) generally have a higher climate impact because of their fossil fuel origin and the energy consumed during production (ETC/WMGE, 2021b; Beton et al., 2014).

3. Design as an enabler of circular business models for textiles
To reduce the environmental and climate change impacts of textiles, shifting towards circular business models is crucial to save on raw materials, energy, water and land use, emissions and waste (ETC/WMGE, 2019). Implementing and scaling circular business models requires technical, social and business model innovation; as well as enablers from policy, consumption and education (EEA, 2021).

Circular design is an important component of circular business models for textiles. It can ensure higher quality, longer lifetimes, better use of materials, and better options for reuse and recycling. While it is important to enable the recycling and reuse of materials, life-extending strategies, such as design for durability, ease of reuse, repair and remanufacturing, should be prioritised. Preventing the use of hazardous chemicals and limiting toxic emissions and release of microplastics at all life cycle stages should be incorporated into product design.

Designing for circularity is the most recent development in design for sustainability. Expanding a technical and product-centric focus to a focus on large-scale system-level changes (considering both production and consumption systems) shows that this latest development requires many more disciplines than traditional engineering design. Product design as a component of a circular business model depends on consumer behaviour and policy to realise its potential and enable implementation. Figure 7 shows the linkages between the circular business model, product design, consumer behaviour and policy. All are needed to slow down and close the loop, making it circular.

photo: pixabay
04.01.2022

EU Project: System Circularity & Innovative Recycling of Textiles

SCIRT stands for System Circularity & Innovative Recycling of Textiles. Coordinated by VITO, an independent Flemish research organisation in the cleantech and sustainable development sector, SCIRT is a three year EU-funded project from the Horizon 2020 Programme.

It aims to demonstrate a complete textile-to-textile recycling system for discarded clothing—or post-consumer textiles—involving stakeholders throughout the value chain and focusing on the recycling of natural fibres, synthetic fibres and fibre blends. To reach this goal, the project has set four main objectives.

SCIRT stands for System Circularity & Innovative Recycling of Textiles. Coordinated by VITO, an independent Flemish research organisation in the cleantech and sustainable development sector, SCIRT is a three year EU-funded project from the Horizon 2020 Programme.

It aims to demonstrate a complete textile-to-textile recycling system for discarded clothing—or post-consumer textiles—involving stakeholders throughout the value chain and focusing on the recycling of natural fibres, synthetic fibres and fibre blends. To reach this goal, the project has set four main objectives.

  • Deliver a closed-loop recycling solution for discarded textiles.
  • Stimulate and encourage conscious design as well as production practices.
  • Create new business opportunities by boosting textile value chain activity.
  • Raise awareness of the environmental and social impacts of buying clothes.

Gathering 18 partners from five countries, the SCIRT project held its virtual kick-off meeting in mid-2021 to begin tackling the issue of clothing waste and recyclability, one of the biggest challenges faced in the fashion industry today.

As clothing brands are setting ambitious targets and making promises to incorporate recycled fibres in their products, discarded textiles are piling up in abundance around the globe. Though it would seem that the stars of supply and demand have aligned for this part of the circular economy, the truth is that less than 1% of textile waste is recycled into new textile fibres, according to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation report published in 2017. This miniscule percentage is indicative of a greater problem-achieving circularity in the fashion industry is not just a question of supply and demand, but of the connection between the two. There is a lack of knowledge surrounding the technological, economic and environmental feasibility of recycling fibre mixtures, and a need to align the quality and cost of recycling processes with the demands of textile companies and fashion brands.

SCIRT will develop solutions to support systemic innovation towards a more circular fashion system and bridge this supply-demand gap. To address the demand side of the equation, SCIRT will demonstrate a complete textile-to-textile recycling system for discarded clothing, otherwise known as post-consumer textiles, involving stakeholders throughout the value chain and focusing on the recycling of natural and synthetic fibres, as well as fibre blends. With the support of technical partners and research institutes, clothing brands Decathlon, Petit Bateau, Bel & Bo, HNST and Xandres, will develop, prototype and produce six different representative types of apparel using post-consumer recycled fibres. These include formal and casual wear, sportswear, underwear and uniforms. Through this endeavour, SCIRT will prioritise quality and cost-effectiveness in order to ensure market confidence and encourage the broad uptake of post-consumer recycled fibres.

From a non-technological perspective, SCIRT will develop supporting policy measures and tools to facilitate the transition towards a circular system for apparel. This includes a framework for an eco-modulated Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system and a True Cost Model to quantify circularity and increase value chain transparency. Special attention will also be given to the consumer perspective. To this end, Citizen Labs engaging consumers in various European locations, as well as a wider online engagement platform, will be developed to engage citizens throughout the project in order to understand the perceptions, motivations and emotions shaping their behaviour regarding the purchase, use, and disposal of textiles.

Over the next three years, SCIRT project partners will work to overcome current technological, economic, socio-economic and regulatory barriers faced in textiles recycling to achieve a real, lasting circular fashion economy.

2021:
The SCIRT project kicks off and partners identify the current state-of-the-art in apparel design, production and recycling, challenges and market trends, and stakeholder needs.

2022:
Designing and testing a fibre-to-fibre system by producing recycled yarns and filaments, free from harmful substances.

2023:
Formal wear, casual wear, sportswear, underwear and uniforms will be designed and produced using the optimized yarns developed.

Partners

  • Fashion companies: Bel&Bo, HNST, Decathlon, Xandres, Petit Bateau
  • Research organisations: VITO, CETI, Prospex Institute
  • Universities: BOKU, TU Wien, ESTIA
  • Industry players: Altex, AVS Spinning - A European Spinning Group (ESG) Company, Valvan
  • SMEs: Circular.fashion, FFact
  • Non-profit organisations: Flanders DC, IID-SII

 

ALTEX
ALTEX is a textile recycling company based in Germany that employs state-of-the-art machinery to recycle textile waste into new high-quality products. Its products include teared fibres, natural fibres, synthetic fibres and fibre blends among others.

Bel & Bo
Bel&Bo is a family-owned Belgian business with about 95 retail stores located throughout Belgium. Its mission is to offer colourful, fashionable and sustainably produced clothing for men, women and children at an affordable price.

CETI
The European Center for Innovative Textiles (CETI) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to conceiving, experimenting with and prototyping innovative textile materials and products through both private and collaborative R&D projects.

circular.fashion
circular.fashion offers software for circular design, intelligent textile sorting and closed-loop recycling, including the Circular Design Software and the circularity.ID®, as well as training and hands-on support to fashion brands in their transitions.

Decathlon
With over 315 stores in France, and 1,511 around the world, Decathlon has been innovating since 1976 to become the main player for athletic people. It has been engaged in reducing its environmental impact through a number of actions.

ESG
The European Spinning Group (ESG) is a textile group based in Belgium that offers a range of yarns produced with a highly technological open-end spinning mill for different applications, such as for interiors, fashion and technical textiles.

ESTIA
ESTIA is a French institute that has provided education and training in the areas of industrial technologies for 20 years. Since 2017, ESTIA has had a program focused on new materials and disruptive process in the fashion and textile industry.

FFACT
FFact is a unique group of management consultants that facilitates the implementation of sustainability from a business perspective, and translates facts into useful management information. FFact is based in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Flanders DC
The Flanders District of Creativity, a non-profit organisation based in Belgium, informs, coaches, promotes and inspires creative entrepreneurs in various sectors, including the fashion industry, who want to build or grow their business.

HNST
HNST is a Belgian circular denim brand that recovers post-consumer denim and recycles it into new fabric in the EU, creating durable and 100% recyclable jeans that use 82% less water and emit 76% less carbon dioxide than conventional jeans.

Petit Bateau
Petit Bateau is a French apparel brand that specialises in knit products. As a vertical company, Petit Bateau carries out its own knitting, dyeing, making up and store management with the support of its 3,000 employees.

Prospex Institute
The Prospex Institute aims to promote the participation of citizens and stakeholders in socially relevant decision-making dialogue and development by engaging with theorists and practitioners both in Belgium and abroad.

IID-SII
The Sustainable Innovation Institute is a French non-profit association based in Paris. Initiated by LGI, a French SME, the purpose of IID-SII is to act as a think and do tank on sustainable innovation to support the adoption of novel solutions.

TU Wien
TU Wien is an open academic institution where research, teaching and learning have taken place under the motto “Technology for people” for the past 200 years. One of its key areas of research is on recycling technology and fibre innovation.

BOKU
Research at the Institute for Environmental Biotechnology of BOKU based in Vienna, Austria focus on the exploitation of enzymes as powerful biocatalysts for biomaterials processing within recycling applications.

Valvan
Valvan Baling Systems has 30 years of experience in designing and constructing custom-made machinery, specialising in Baling Machines and Sorting Facilities for fibre producers, collectors, sorters and recyclers of textiles.

VITO
VITO, a leading independent European research and technology organisation in the cleantech and sustainable development sectors, aims to accelerate the transition towards a sustainable society by developing sustainable technologies.

Xandres
Xandres is a brand inspired by and for women. It is rooted in a highly respected tradition of fashion, driven by quality and created for the life women lead today. Xandres offers innovative designs with respect for luxury and the environment.

(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

Photo: pixabay
10.08.2021

Stand-up paddle board made from renewable lightweight mater

Stand-up paddling has become a popular sport. However, conventional surfboards are made of petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin and polyurethane.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut, WKI, want to replace plastic boards with sustainable sports equipment: They are developing a stand-up paddle board that is made from one hundred percent renewable raw materials. The ecological lightweight material can be used in many ways, such as in the construction of buildings, cars and ships.

Stand-up paddling has become a popular sport. However, conventional surfboards are made of petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin and polyurethane.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut, WKI, want to replace plastic boards with sustainable sports equipment: They are developing a stand-up paddle board that is made from one hundred percent renewable raw materials. The ecological lightweight material can be used in many ways, such as in the construction of buildings, cars and ships.

Stand-up paddling (SUP) is a sport that is close to nature, but the plastic boards are anything but environmentally friendly. As a rule, petroleum-based materials such as epoxy resin, polyester resin, polyurethane and expanded or extruded polystyrene are used in combination with fiberglass and carbon fiber fabrics to produce the sports equipment. In many parts of the world, these plastics are not recycled, let alone disposed of correctly. Large quantities of plastic end up in the sea and collect in huge ocean eddies. For Christoph Pöhler, a scientist at Fraunhofer WKI and an avid stand-up paddler, this prompted him to think about a sustainable alternative. In the ecoSUP project, he is driving the development of a stand-up paddle board that is made from 100 percent renewable raw materials and which is also particularly strong and durable. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW is accompanying the research work, with TU Braunschweig acting as project partner.

Recovering balsa wood from rotor blades
“In standard boards, a polystyrene core, which we know as styrofoam, is reinforced with fiberglass and sealed with an epoxy resin. We, instead, use bio-based lightweight material,” says the civil engineer. Pöhler and his colleagues use recycled balsa wood for the core. This has a very low density, i.e. it is light yet mechanically stressable. Balsa wood grows mainly in Papua New Guinea and Ecuador, where it has been used in large quantities in wind turbines for many years – up to six cubic meters of the material can be found in a rotor blade. Many of the systems are currently being disconnected from the grid. In 2020 alone, 6000 were dismantled. A large proportion of this is burnt. It would make more sense to recover the material from the rotor blade and recycle it in accordance with the circular economy. “This was exactly our thinking. The valuable wood is too good to burn,” says Pöhler.

Since the entire sandwich material used in conventional boards is to be completely replaced, the shell of the ecological board is also made from one hundred percent bio-based polymer. It is reinforced with flax fibers grown in Europe, which are characterized by very good mechanical properties. To pull the shell over the balsa wood core, Pöhler and his team use the hand lay-up and vacuum infusion processes. Feasibility studies are still underway to determine the optimal method. The first demonstrator of the ecological board should be available by the end of 2022. “In the interests of environmental protection and resource conservation, we want to use natural fibers and bio-based polymers wherever it is technically possible. In many places, GFRP is used even though a bio-based counterpart could do the same,” Pöhler sums up.

Patented technology for the production of wood foam
But how is it possible to recover the balsa wood from the rotor blade — after all, it is firmly bonded to the glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) of the outer shell? First, the wood is separated from the composite material in an impact mill. The density differences can be used to split the mixed-material structures into their individual components using a wind sifter. The balsa wood fibers, which are available as chips and fragments, are then finely ground. “We need this very fine starting material to produce wood foam. Fraunhofer WKI has a patented technology for this,” explains the researcher. In this process, the wood particles are suspended to form a kind of cake batter and processed into a light yet firm wood foam that holds together thanks to the wood’s own binding forces. The addition of adhesive is not required. The density and strength of the foam can be adjusted. “This is important because the density should not be too high. Otherwise, the stand-up paddle board would be too heavy to transport.”

Initially, the researchers are focusing on stand-up paddle boards. However, the hybrid material is also suitable for all other boards, such as skateboards. The future range of applications is broad: For example, it could be used as a facade element in the thermal insulation of buildings. The technology can also be used in the construction of vehicles, ships and trains.

Photo: Pixabay
03.08.2021

Composites Germany presents results of the 17th Composites Market Survey

  • Highly positive rating of current business situation
  • Future expectations are optimistic
  • Varied expectations for application industries
  • Still the same growth drivers

This is the seventeenth time that Composites Germany has identified the latest KPIs for the fibre-reinforced plastics market. The survey covered all the member companies of the three major umbrella organisations of Composites Germany: AVK (Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe e.V.), Leichtbau Baden-Württemberg and the VDMA Working Group on Hybrid Lightweight Construction Technologies.

As before, to ensure a smooth comparison with the previous surveys, the questions in this half-yearly survey have been left unchanged. Once again, the data obtained in the survey is largely qualitative and relates to current and future market developments.

  • Highly positive rating of current business situation
  • Future expectations are optimistic
  • Varied expectations for application industries
  • Still the same growth drivers

This is the seventeenth time that Composites Germany has identified the latest KPIs for the fibre-reinforced plastics market. The survey covered all the member companies of the three major umbrella organisations of Composites Germany: AVK (Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe e.V.), Leichtbau Baden-Württemberg and the VDMA Working Group on Hybrid Lightweight Construction Technologies.

As before, to ensure a smooth comparison with the previous surveys, the questions in this half-yearly survey have been left unchanged. Once again, the data obtained in the survey is largely qualitative and relates to current and future market developments.

Highly positive rating of current business situation
After ratings of the current business situation had been steadily declining for nearly two years in succession, last year’s survey already displayed a trend reversal towards a more positive outlook. This positive trend has now continued in the latest survey, with entirely positive ratings for all three regions (Germany, Europe and worldwide). For ex-ample, 80% described the current general business situation as either positive or indeed very positive.

Moreover, unlike in the last survey, this more optimistic assessment applies not only to the general business situation, but also to the respondents’ own businesses, as they gave even more positive ratings than last year.     

There are currently quite a few challenges in the industrial environment. In many cases, the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, has merely receded, but has not disappeared.      
Business models have been and are still requiring adjustments. In some cases, supply chains have been severely disrupted and there are still some serious bottlenecks. The blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given has once again highlighted the vulnerability of international commerce.

Shortages of raw materials, sharp increases in the prices of many raw materials and, most recently, a shortage of chips are having a major impact on various application industries. Nevertheless, the overall picture in the composites in-dustry is extremely optimistic. Similarly positive ratings were last achieved in the autumn 2018 and spring 2019 surveys.

Future expectations are optimistic
The positive prevailing mood is further reinforced by positive expectations for the future. A consistently optimistic picture emerged when respondents were asked about their ex-pectations for future business developments. For example, more than 80% of respond-ents are expecting the business situation in Europe to improve over the next six months. The pattern is similar for the other regions.

Varied expectations for application industries
Expectations on selected application industries vary substantially. As in the previous survey, significant declines are expected, above all, in automotive, aviation and wind energy. However, we can see that the proportion of respondents giving more pessimistic assessments has once again declined significantly.
Whereas, in the last sur-vey, 46% were expecting to see the situation get worse in aviation, this value has now dropped to a “mere” 17%. In the automotive sector, it has dropped from 17% (second half of 2020) to only 14%.

Two areas of application, in particular – infrastructure/construction and sports/leisure – have long been seen by many respondents as major growth stimulants for the composites industry. Even in times of a more difficult industrial environment, these two areas are currently proving to be especially robust.

GRP is still a growth driver
As before, the current market survey shows Germany, Europe and Asia as the global regions expected to deliver the most important growth stimuli for the composites segment. Expectations for Asia, on the other hand, have declined somewhat in favour of Europe. Where materials are concerned, we are seeing a continuation of the ongoing paradigm shift.      

Respondents are still convinced that CRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) is losing ground as a growth driver. However, GRP (glass fibre reinforced plastic) is now ranking as the most important material for the third time in succession. A large number of respondents have also mentioned the area entitled “Across All Segments” this time.

Composites are still relatively young materials with a great deal of potential. It remains exciting to see to what extent composites will continue to emerge as alternative materials and whether they can benefit from the major forthcoming developments (e.g. alternative drives, a growing demand for sustainability, alternative power sources, 5G, etc.).
The next Composites Market Survey will be published in January 2022. 

Photo: pixabay
06.07.2021

»Waste4Future«: Today's Waste becomes Tomorrow's Resource

Fraunhofer Institutes pave new ways in plastics recycling

A sustainable society, the renunciation of fossil raw materials, climate-neutral processes - also the chemical industry has committed itself to these goals. For the industry, this means a huge challenge within the next years and decades. This structural change can succeed if all activities - from the raw material base to material flows and process technology to the end of a product's life cycle - are geared towards the goal of sustainable value creation. The key to this is innovation.

Fraunhofer Institutes pave new ways in plastics recycling

A sustainable society, the renunciation of fossil raw materials, climate-neutral processes - also the chemical industry has committed itself to these goals. For the industry, this means a huge challenge within the next years and decades. This structural change can succeed if all activities - from the raw material base to material flows and process technology to the end of a product's life cycle - are geared towards the goal of sustainable value creation. The key to this is innovation.

Plastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) or polystyrene (PS), which are currently produced almost entirely from fossil raw materials, are fundamental to many everyday products and modern technologies. The carbon contained in plastics is an important resource for the chemical industry. If it is possible to better identify such carbon-containing components in waste, to recycle them more effectively, and to use them again to produce high-quality raw materials for industry, the carbon can be kept in the cycle. This not only reduces the need for fossil resources, but also pollution with CO2 emissions and plastic waste. At the same time, the security of supply for industry is improved because an additional source of carbon is tapped.

The "Waste4Future" lighthouse project therefore aims to create new opportunities for recycling plastics in order to make the carbon they contain available as a "green" resource for the chemical industry. "We are thus paving the way for a carbon circular economy in which valuable new base molecules are obtained from plastic waste and emissions are largely avoided: Today's waste becomes tomorrow's resource," says Dr.-Ing. Sylvia Schattauer, deputy director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS, which is heading the project. "With the know-how of the participating institutes, we want to show how the comprehensive recycling of waste containing plastics without loss of carbon is possible and ultimately economical through interlocking, networked processes." The outcome of the project, which will run until the end of 2023, is expected to be innovative recycling technologies for complex waste that can be used to obtain high-quality recyclates.

Specifically, the development of a holistic, entropy-based assessment model is planned (entropy = measure of the disorder of a system), which will reorganize the recycling chain from process-guided to material-guided. A new type of sorting identifies which materials and in particular which plastic fractions are contained in the waste. Based on this analysis, the total stream is separated and a targeted decision is then made for the resulting sub-streams as to which recycling route is the most technically, ecologically and economically sensible for this specific waste quantity. What cannot be further utilized by means of mechanical recycling is available for chemical recycling, always with the aim of preserving the maximum possible amount of carbon compounds. Burning waste containing plastics at the end of the chain is thus eliminated.

The challenges for research and development are considerable. These include the complex evaluation of both input materials and recyclates according to ecological, economic and technical criteria. Mechanical recycling must be optimized, and processes and technologies must be established for the key points in the material utilization of plastic fractions. In addition, suitable sensor technology must be developed that can reliably identify materials in the sorting system. Machine learning methods will also be used, and the aim is to link them to a digital twin that represents the properties of the processed materials.

Another goal of the project is the automated optimization of the formulation development of recyclates from different material streams. Last but not least, an economic evaluation of the new recycling process chain will be carried out, for example with regard to the effects of rising prices for CO2 certificates or new regulatory requirements. The project consortium will also conduct comprehensive life cycle analysis (LCA) studies for the individual recycling technologies to identify potential environmental risks and opportunities.

For the development of the corresponding solutions, the participating institutes are in close exchange with companies from the chemical industry and plastics processing, waste management, recycling plant construction and recycling plant operation, in order to consider the needs of industry in a targeted manner and thus increase the chances of rapid application of the results achieved.

The following Institutes are involved in the Fraunhofer lighthouse project "Waste4Future":

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS (lead)
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Non-Destructive Testing IZFP
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategy IWKS
  • Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB
  • Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV
Photo: pixabay
25.05.2021

Water Saving Solution for Textile Industry EC Project Waste2Fresh

The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT, with its long-term expertise in nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing, contributes to a new EC project for water saving solutions for textile industry. This industry uses a vast amount of water for different steps in the textile dyeing process. It also produces a lot of wastewater, which contains a range of chemicals and dyes.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT, with its long-term expertise in nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing, contributes to a new EC project for water saving solutions for textile industry. This industry uses a vast amount of water for different steps in the textile dyeing process. It also produces a lot of wastewater, which contains a range of chemicals and dyes.

Breakthrough innovations are needed in energy intensive industries to recycle water and create closed loops in industrial processes. 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from textile manufacturing. To reduce the high amount of freshwater used in textile industry, the EC-funded Waste2Fresh project will develop a closed-loop process for textile manufacturing factories in which wastewater is collected, recycled and used again. Novel and innovative catalytic degradation approaches with highly selective separation and extraction techniques will be developed, based on nanotechnology. According to the European Commission, such “closed loops“ would significantly reduce the use of fresh water and improve water availability in the relevant EU water catchment areas, as outlined in the Water Framework Directive.

Closed loop recycling system for wastewater from textile manufacturers
Waste2Fresh meets the above challenges and industry needs by developing and demonstrating (to TRL 7) a closed loop recycling system for wastewater from textile manufacturing factories; to counteract freshwater resource scarcities and water pollution challenges exacerbated by energy intensive industries which are major users of fresh water (for e.g., processing, washing, heating, cooling).

The Waste2Fresh technology is developed to reduce current use of freshwater resources and considerably increases the recovery of water, energy and other resources (organics, salts and heavy metals). The result is a 30% increase in resource and water efficiency compared to the state-of-the-art. The system will ultimately lead to considerable environmental improvements and accordingly reduce the EC and global environmental footprint.

Fraunhofer IBMT expertise in human-toxicity and -safety testing
The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT will be primarily responsible for performing nanotoxicity and nanosafety testing during the whole technology process (from development to demonstration), ensuring that the developed system and processes meet relevant safety regulations. The Fraunhofer IBMT collaborates with all consortium partners developing and using to develop approaches for ensuring that the developed nanomaterial-based components meet relevant health and safety standards during their use.

For the hazard assessment of the developed nanomaterials, the Fraunhofer IBMT will perform a set of in vitro toxicity studies using commercially available human cell lines. The results of this toxicity studies will be the basis for the development of relevant safety procedures for handling and using the developed recycling technology.

 

Project funding: H2020-EU.2.1.5.3. - Sustainable, resource-efficient and low-carbon technologies in energy-intensive process industries

Duration: 12/2020- 11/2023

Coordinator:
KONYA TEKNIK UNIVERSITESI, Turkey

Project partners:
CENTRE FOR PROCESS INNOVATION LIMITED LBG, United Kingdom
ERAK GIYIM SANAYI VE TICARET ANONIM SIRKETI, Turkey
FRAUNHOFER GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER ANGEWANDTEN FORSCHUNG E.V., Fraunhofer-Institut für Biomedizinische Technik IBMT, Germany
INNOVATION IN RESEARCH & ENGINEERING SOLUTIONS, Belgium
INSTYTUT MOLEKULYARNOI BIOLOGII I GENETYKY NAN UKRAINY, Ukraine
L'UREDERRA, FUNDACION PARA EL DESARROLLO TECNOLOGICO Y SOCIAL, Spain
NANOFIQUE LIMITED, United Kingdom
NANOGENTECH LTD, United Kingdom
PCI MEMBRANES SPOLKA Z OGRANICZONA ODPOWIEDZIALNOSCIA, Poland
STIFTELSE CSDI WATERTECH, Norway
THE OPEN UNIVERSITY, United Kingdom
ULUDAG CEVRE TEKNOLOJILERI ARGE MERKEZI SANAYI VE TICARET LIMITED SIRKETI, Turkey
UNIVERSIDAD INDUSTRIAL DE SANTANDER, Colombia
UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TRENTO, Italy
VEREALA GMBH, Switzerland
VSI SOCIALINES INOVACIJOS SVARESNEI APLINKAI, Lithiani

(c) Porsche AG
04.05.2021

Fraunhofer: Lightweight and Ecology in Automotive Construction

  • The “Bioconcept-Car” moves ahead

In automobile racing, lightweight bodies made from plastic and carbon fibers have been standard for many years because they enable drivers to reach the finish line more quickly. In the future, lightweight-construction solutions could help reduce the energy consumption and emissions of everyday vehicles. The catch is that the production of carbon fibers is not only expensive but also consumes considerable amounts of energy and petroleum. In collaboration with Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have succeeded in replacing the carbon fibers in a car door with natural fibers. This is already being installed in small series at Porsche. The project team is now taking the next step: Together with HOBUM Oleochemicals, they want to maximize the proportion of renewable raw materials in the door and other body parts - using bio-based plastics and paints.

  • The “Bioconcept-Car” moves ahead

In automobile racing, lightweight bodies made from plastic and carbon fibers have been standard for many years because they enable drivers to reach the finish line more quickly. In the future, lightweight-construction solutions could help reduce the energy consumption and emissions of everyday vehicles. The catch is that the production of carbon fibers is not only expensive but also consumes considerable amounts of energy and petroleum. In collaboration with Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have succeeded in replacing the carbon fibers in a car door with natural fibers. This is already being installed in small series at Porsche. The project team is now taking the next step: Together with HOBUM Oleochemicals, they want to maximize the proportion of renewable raw materials in the door and other body parts - using bio-based plastics and paints.

Carbon fibers reinforce plastics and therefore provide lightweight components with the necessary stability. Mass-produced natural fibers are not only more cost-effective but can also be produced in a considerably more sustainable manner. For the “Bioconcept-Car” pilot vehicle, researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI have developed body parts with 100 percent natural fibers as reinforcing components.

“We utilize natural fibers, such as those made from hemp, flax or jute. Whilst natural fibers exhibit lower stiffnesses and strengths compared to carbon fibers, the values achieved are nonetheless sufficient for many applications,” explained Ole Hansen, Project Manager at the Fraunhofer WKI. Due to their naturally grown structure, natural fibers dampen sound and vibrations more effectively. Their lesser tendency to splinter can help to reduce the risk of injury in the event of an accident. Furthermore, they do not cause skin irritation during processing.

The bio-based composites were successfully tested by the Four Motors racing team in the “Bioconcept-Car” on the racetrack under extreme conditions. Porsche has actually been using natural fiber-reinforced plastics in a small series of the Cayman GT4 Clubsport since 2019. During production, the researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI also conducted an initial ecological assessment based on material and energy data. “We were able to determine that the utilized natural-fiber fabric has a better environmental profile in its production, including the upstream chains, than the fabric made from carbon. Thermal recycling after the end of its service life should also be possible without any problems,” confirmed Ole Hansen.

In the next project phase of the "Bioconcept-Car", the researchers at the Fraunhofer WKI, in collaboration with the cooperation partners HOBUM Oleochemicals GmbH, Porsche Motorsport and Four Motors, will develop a vehicle door with a biogenic content of 85 percent in the overall composite consisting of fibers and resin. They intend to achieve this by, amongst other things, utilizing bio-based resin-hardener blends as well as bio-based paint systems. The practicality of the door - and possibly additional components - will again be tested by Four Motors on the racetrack. If the researchers are successful, it may be possible to transfer the acquired knowledge into series production at Porsche.

The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) is funding the “Bioconcept-Car” project via the project-management agency Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. (FNR).

Background
Sustainability through the utilization of renewable raw materials has formed the focus at the Fraunhofer WKI for more than 70 years. The institute, with locations in Braunschweig, Hanover and Wolfsburg, specializes in process engineering, natural-fiber composites, surface technology, wood and emission protection, quality assurance of wood products, material and product testing, recycling procedures and the utilization of organic building materials and wood in construction. Virtually all the procedures and materials resulting from the research activities are applied industrially.

 

  • EU Project ALMA: Thinking Ahead to Electromobility

E-mobility and lightweight construction are two crucial building blocks of modern vehicle development to drive the energy transition. They are the focus of the ALMA project (Advanced Light Materials and Processes for the Eco-Design of Electric Vehicles). Nine European organizations are now working in the EU project to develop more energy-efficient and sustainable vehicles. Companies from research and industry are optimizing the efficiency and range of electric vehicles, among other things by reducing the weight of the overall vehicle. The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM is providing support with mathematical simulation expertise.

According to the low emissions mobility strategy, the European Union aims to have at least 30 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030. Measures to support jobs, growth, investment, and innovation are taken to tackle emissions from the transport sector. To make transport more climate-friendly, EU measures are being taken to promote jobs, investment and innovation. The European Commission's Horizon 2020 project ALMA represents one of these measures.

Photo: Pixabay
16.02.2021

Carbon with Multiple Lives: Bringing Innovations in Carbon Fiber Recycling to Market

When it comes to the future of motorized mobility, everyone talks about the power drive: How much e-car, how much combustion engine can the environment tolerate and how much do people need? At the same time, new powertrains place ineased demands not only on the engine, but also on its housing and the car body: Carbon fibers are often used for such demanding applications. Like the powertrain of the future, the materials on the vehicle should also be environmentally friendly. That is why recycling of carbon fibers is required. Institutes of the Zuse Community have developed solutions for this.

Carbon fibers consist almost completely of pure carbon. It is extracted from the plastic polyacrylonitrile at 1,300 degrees Celsius, using a lot of energy. The advantages of carbon fibers: They have almost no dead weight, are enormously break-resistant and sturdy. These properties are needed, for example, in the battery box of electric vehicles in structural components of a car body.

When it comes to the future of motorized mobility, everyone talks about the power drive: How much e-car, how much combustion engine can the environment tolerate and how much do people need? At the same time, new powertrains place ineased demands not only on the engine, but also on its housing and the car body: Carbon fibers are often used for such demanding applications. Like the powertrain of the future, the materials on the vehicle should also be environmentally friendly. That is why recycling of carbon fibers is required. Institutes of the Zuse Community have developed solutions for this.

Carbon fibers consist almost completely of pure carbon. It is extracted from the plastic polyacrylonitrile at 1,300 degrees Celsius, using a lot of energy. The advantages of carbon fibers: They have almost no dead weight, are enormously break-resistant and sturdy. These properties are needed, for example, in the battery box of electric vehicles in structural components of a car body.

The Saxon Textile Research Institute (STFI), for instance, is currently working with industrial partners on combining the static-mechanical strengths of carbon fibers with vibration damping properties to improve the housings of electric motors in cars. The project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, is aimed at developing hybrid nonwovens that contain other fibers, in addition to carbon fiber, as a reinforcement. "We want to combine the advantages of different fiber materials and thereby develop a product that is optimally tailored to the requirements", explains Marcel Hofmann, head of department of Textile Lightweight Construction at STFI.

The Chemnitz researchers would therefore complement previous nonwoven solutions. They look back on 15 years of working with recycled carbon fibers. The global annual demand for the high-value fibers has almost quadrupled in the past decade, according to the AVK Industry Association to around 142,000 t most recently. "Increasing demand has brought recycling more and more into focus", says Hofmann. According to him, carbon fiber waste is available for about one-tenth to one-fifth of the price of primary fibers, but they still need to be processed. The key issue for the research success of recycled fibers is competitive applications. STFI has found these not only in cars, but also in the sports and leisure sector as well as in medical technology, for example in components for computer tomography. "While metals or glass fibers cast shadows as potential competing products, carbon does not interfere with the image display and can fully exploit its advantages", explains Hofmann.
 
Using Paper Know-How
If recycled carbon fibers can pass through the product cycle again, this significantly improves their carbon footprint. At the same time it applies: The shorter the carbon fibers, the less attractive they are for further recycling. With this in mind, the Cetex Research Institute and the Papiertechnische Stiftung (PTS), both members of the Zuse Community, developed a new process as part of a research project that gives recycled carbon fibers, which previously seemed unsuitable, a second product life. "While classic textile processes use dry processing for the already very brittle recycled carbon fibers in fiber lengths of at least 80 mm, we dealt with a process from the paper industry that processes the materials wet. At the end of the process, in very simplified terms, we obtained a laminar mat made of recycled carbon fibers and chemical fibers", says Cetex project engineer Johannes Tietze, explaining the process by which even 40 mm short carbon fibers can be recycled into appealing intermediates.

The resulting product created in a hot pressing process serves as the base material for heavy-duty structural components. In addition, the mechanical properties of the semi-finished products were improved by combining them with continuous fiber-reinforced tapes. The researchers expect the recycled product to compete with glass-fiber-reinforced plastics, for example in applications in rail and vehicle construction. The results are now being incorporated into further research and development in
the cooperation network of Ressourcetex, a funded association with 18 partners from industry and science.

Successful Implementation in the Automotive Industry
Industrial solutions for the recycling of carbon fiber production waste are being developed at the Thuringian Institute of Textile and Plastics Research (TITK). Several of these developments were industrially implemented with partners at the company SGL Composites in Wackersdorf, Germany. The processing of the so-called dry waste, mainly from production, is carried out in a separate procedure. "Here, we add the opened fibers to various processes for nonwoven production", says the responsible head of the department at TITK, Dr. Renate Lützkendorf . In addition to developments for applications e.g. in the BMW i3 in the roof or rear seat shell, special nonwovens and processes for the production of Sheet Molding Compounds (SMC) were established at TITK. These are thermoset materials consisting of reaction resins and reinforcing fibers, which are used to press fiber-plastic composites. This was used, for example, in a component for the C-pillar of the BMW 7 Series. "In its projects, TITK is primarily focusing on the development of more efficient processes and combined procedures to give carbon fiber recycling materials better opportunities in lightweight construction applications, also in terms of costs", says Lützkendorf. The focus is currently on the use of CF recycled fibers in thermoplastic processes for sheet and profile extrusion. "The goal is to combine short- and continuous-fiber reinforcement in a single, high-performance process step."

1) Since February 1st, 2021, Dr.-Ing. Thomas Reussmann succeeds Dr.-Ing. Renate Lützkendorf, who retired 31 January.

Source:

Zuse Community

Cotton (c) pixabay
10.11.2020

Fashion and textiles industry keen to go green despite COVID-19 pandemic

  • New research shows business leaders at top fashion, retail and textile businesses are putting sustaina-bility drive first, despite COVID-19 pandemic
  • The power of data in the effort to ‘go green’ is well recognized, but patchy performance suggests more access to better quality data needed to help turbocharge change
  • Despite Covid-19, fashion leaders are confident that fast, affordable and sustainable fashion is realistic, with crisis seen as opportunity to recharge sustainability efforts 

New research reveals the extent of the global fashion industry's commitment to sustainability, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with sustainability ranked as the second most important strategic objective for businesses in the sector .

  • New research shows business leaders at top fashion, retail and textile businesses are putting sustaina-bility drive first, despite COVID-19 pandemic
  • The power of data in the effort to ‘go green’ is well recognized, but patchy performance suggests more access to better quality data needed to help turbocharge change
  • Despite Covid-19, fashion leaders are confident that fast, affordable and sustainable fashion is realistic, with crisis seen as opportunity to recharge sustainability efforts 

New research reveals the extent of the global fashion industry's commitment to sustainability, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with sustainability ranked as the second most important strategic objective for businesses in the sector .

The new research, from the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), is like Puma, H&M and Adidas. Explored in a new report, ‘Is Sustainability in Fashion?’ the research comes at a time when the industry finds itself at a crossroads: whether to continue to invest in sustainability, or row back in light of the pandemic.

Sustainability is business critical, say fashion, retail and textile leaders  
In defiance of the pandemic, the new data shows that for many of the world's biggest brands, sustaina-bility is now business critical. The majority of fashion, retail and textile leaders surveyed (60%), named implementing sustainability measures as a top two strategic objective for their business, second only to improving customers’ experience (ranked first by 64%). This contrasts starkly with the fewer than one in six (14%) that listed 'rewarding shareholders' as a top objective.

Leaders report they’re introducing sustainability measures throughout the supply chain, from sourcing sustainably produced raw materials (65%), introducing a circular economy approach to their business and cutting greenhouse gasses (51% apiece) and investing in new technologies like 3D printing and blockchain (41%).  Overall, the majority (73%) were optimistic that sustainable, fast and affordable fash-ion is achievable.

Data matters
A key finding of the research is that data matters for sustainability. When asked what measures they were implementing today to be more sustainable, collecting data from across the business and in the supply chain to measure performance was listed at the very top of business leaders’ list of priorities by 53%, second only to developing and implementing an environmental sustainability strategy with meas-urable targets, favoured by almost six in ten (58%).

And data is not important for the immediate term only –  three in ten (29%) said the availability of relia-ble data holds the key to greater sustainability over the next decade, while almost three-quarters of industry leaders (73%) stated their support for global benchmarks and thresholds as an effective means of measuring sustainability performance and driving progress in the industry.

But data collection is patchy
However, although brands clearly recognize the importance of data, the research’s findings on data collection indicates that top fashion brands, retailers and textile businesses may find sourcing good quality data a challenge.

While business leaders report relatively high rates of data collection on supplier sustainability practices based on a survey of 150 leading executives from top fashion, retail and textile business across Europe and the US and interviews with leading brands (65%) and worker rights and workplace health and safety in the supply chain (62%), a significant proportion (45%) of businesses do not track greenhouse gas emissions across production, manufacturing and distribution of the products they sell, while 41% don’t track the amount of water and energy being used to produce the raw materials they source.

Looking to the future, over a quarter (26%) of respondents saw a lack of available, easily-accessible data as hampering collaboration on sustainability across the industry. As some respondents in interview pointed out, while collecting data could be hard it is important.  

Commenting on the findings, Gary Adams, President of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, said: "It is clear that brands are faced with a challenge on driving forward their sustainability efforts. At the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol we know that accurate, reliable data supports businesses in this work - providing not only the evidence to show hard work and progress, but the insight to drive further improvements. We pro-vide one of the most robust data collection mechanisms available for an essential material – cotton – for unparalleled transparency.”  

Partnership offers path to further progress
An additional key finding is that fashion, retail and textile business clearly cannot drive change in isola-tion: collaboration is needed. According to one respondent, from Reformation, this is already happen-ing. “We’re energized to see collaboration and cooperation across the industry and believe that will only increase over time.”

However, when it comes to external support to help guide that progress, business leaders do not nec-essarily perceive further regulation as the answer.  The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and government regulation were each given equal weight in driving sustainability change, both cited by a quarter of respondents (24% apiece). Regulatory requirements were also ranked by only a third (33%) of the business leaders surveyed as being within the top three factors that will drive sustainability pro-gress over the next decade.  

Jonathan Birdwell, Regional Head of Public Policy and Thought Leadership, The Economist Intelligence Unit: “It’s clear from the survey results and our interviews with business leaders that the industry is committed to driving progress on its sustainability performance. We were particularly struck by the fact that sustainability is largely considered as pre-competitive – behind the scenes brands are sharing re-sources and lessons learned.”

The impact of Covid-19  
This determination on sustainability flies in the face of COVID-19 uncertainty, although when asked their view on the pandemic, just over half (54%) of respondents said they thought it would make sustainabil-ity less of a priority within the industry.

The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is a new initiative that sets a new standard in sustainably grown cotton. By working closely with growers, the U.S. Trust Protocol provides clear, consistent data on six key sus-tainability metrics, including GHG emissions, water use, soil carbon, soil loss, independently audited through Control Union Certification. For the first time, brands can access annualized farm level data and trace their cotton from field to 'laydown'.

Research based on quantitative survey of 150 executives in the fashion, retail and textile industry based in Europe and the United States undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit between 9th July and 28th July 2020. The survey was complemented by qualitative insight from interviews with ten professionals in the fashion and sustainability space.

The Fraunhofer WKI double-rapier weaving machine with the Jacquard attachment in the upper of the photo.  © Fraunhofer WKI | Melina Ruhr. The Fraunhofer WKI double-rapier weaving machine with the Jacquard attachment in the upper of the photo.
02.06.2020

Fraunhofer WKI: Climate-friendly hybrid-fiber materials on the basis of renewable natural fibers

As a result of the new combination possibilities for bio-based hybrid-fiber materials achieved at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI, the industrial application possibilities for renewable raw materials, for example in the automotive industry or for everyday objects such as helmets or skis, can be expanded.

By increasing the proportion of flax fiber in hybrid-fiber materials to up to 50 percent, the scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to significantly increase the biogenic proportion in composite materials. The special aspect of the tested methods: The fabrics can be individually composed with the help of a weaving machine. In this way, process steps in industrial production, in which materials first have to be merged together, can be omitted. This will achieve reductions in energy and CO2 throughout the entire production process.

As a result of the new combination possibilities for bio-based hybrid-fiber materials achieved at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut WKI, the industrial application possibilities for renewable raw materials, for example in the automotive industry or for everyday objects such as helmets or skis, can be expanded.

By increasing the proportion of flax fiber in hybrid-fiber materials to up to 50 percent, the scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to significantly increase the biogenic proportion in composite materials. The special aspect of the tested methods: The fabrics can be individually composed with the help of a weaving machine. In this way, process steps in industrial production, in which materials first have to be merged together, can be omitted. This will achieve reductions in energy and CO2 throughout the entire production process.

Successfully woven: Different hybrid fabrics
In view of the increased demands being placed upon environmental and climate protection, science and industry are seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional materials in all branches of production. As a material, natural fibers offer a sustainable solution. Due to their low density and simultaneous high stability, natural fibers can be used to produce highly resilient light-weight-construction materials which are easy to recycle. In the “ProBio” project, scientists from the Fraunhofer WKI have therefore addressed the question as to how the proportion of natural fibers in bio-based hybrid-fiber materials can be increased as significantly as possible. A double-rapier weaving machine with Jacquard attachment was thereby utilized in order to produce the bio-based hybrid-fiber materials.

The researchers thereby focused specifically on bio-based hybrid-fiber composites (Bio-HFC). Bio-HFC consist of a combination of cellulose-based fibers, such as flax fibers, and synthetic high-performance fibers, such as carbon or glass fibers, for reinforcement. Bio-HFC can be utilized in, for example, vehicle construction. As an innovation in the “ProBio” project, the researchers interwove differing fiber-material combinations, reinforcing fibers and matrix fibers with the aid of the double-rapier weaving machine. This procedure differs from the process in which finished fabrics are layered on top of one another.

“We have combined the advantageous properties of the fiber materials within a composite material in such a way that we have been able to compensate for weak points in individual components, thereby achieving new properties in some cases. In addition, we have succeeded in increasing the proportion of bio-based fibers to up to 50 percent flax fibers, which we have combined with 50 percent reinforcing fibers,” says project team member Jana Winkelmann, describing the procedure. The bio-hybrid textiles, each consisting of 50 percent by weight carbon and flax fabric, are introduced into a bio-based plastic matrix. The composite material possesses a flexural strength which is more than twice as high as that of the corresponding composite material made from flax-reinforced epoxy resin. This mechanical performance capability can significantly expand the application range of renewable raw materials for technical applications.

With the weaving machine, the scientists have successfully combined innovative light-weight-construction composite materials with complex application-specific fabric structures and integrated functions. Reinforcing fibers, such as carbon and natural fibers, as well as multilayer fabrics and three-dimensional structures, can be woven together in a single work step. This offers advantages for industrial production, as production steps in which materials first have to be merged together can be omitted. “We have succeeded, for example, in utilizing conductive yarns or wires as sensors or conductor paths directly in the weaving process, thereby producing fabrics with integrated functions. The introduction of synthetic fibers as weft threads enables the production of bio-hybrid composites with isotropic mechanical properties,” explains Ms. Winkelmann.

Weaving technology makes it possible to create new products with a high proportion of bio-based components on a pilot scale. The project results provide an insight into the diverse combination possibilities of natural and reinforcing fibers and demonstrate opportunities for utilization not only in vehicle construction but also for everyday objects such as helmets or skis. The results will be presented within the framework of the 4th International Conference on Natural Fibers, ICNF, July 2019 in Porto, Portugal. The “ProBio” project, which ran from 1st July 2014 to 30th June 2019, was funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture (MWK).

Background
Sustainability through the utilization of renewable raw materials has formed the focus at the Fraunhofer WKI for more than 70 years. The institute, with locations in Braunschweig, Hanover and Wolfsburg, specializes in process engineering, natural-fiber composites, wood and emission protection, quality assurance of wood products, material and product testing, recycling procedures and the utilization of organic building materials and wood in construction. Virtually all the procedures and materials resulting from the research activities are applied industrially.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research WKI

03.12.2019

INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE JOINTLY CALL FOR PROMOTION OF HYDROGEN TECHNOLOGIES

Climate protection is one of the major challenges of our time. It is becoming increasingly clear that a substantial transformation of industrial value chains and production processes is needed in order to meet the climate protection targets of the Paris Agreement. Carbon-neutral hydrogen will play a decisive role in this transformation: the discussion paper published jointly by industrial stakeholders and scientists shows the crucial relevance of hydrogen for the energy transition, outlines the challenges associated with the development of the necessary infrastructure and also addresses policymakers by providing clear recommendations for action.

IN4climate.NRW publishes its first discussion paper.

Climate protection is one of the major challenges of our time. It is becoming increasingly clear that a substantial transformation of industrial value chains and production processes is needed in order to meet the climate protection targets of the Paris Agreement. Carbon-neutral hydrogen will play a decisive role in this transformation: the discussion paper published jointly by industrial stakeholders and scientists shows the crucial relevance of hydrogen for the energy transition, outlines the challenges associated with the development of the necessary infrastructure and also addresses policymakers by providing clear recommendations for action.

IN4climate.NRW publishes its first discussion paper.

National and global energy and climate protection scenarios make it clear that carbon-neutral hydrogen will be key for energy transition in the future. Hydrogen is of vital importance for climate-neutral production in the chemical and steel industries. It can also replace fossil fuels both in industry and in the transport and mobility sectors. It is easy to transport and store, thus making a significant contribution towards sector coupling. In the future, therefore, a high demand for hydrogen is expected – according to current scenarios this could amount to more than 600 terawatt-hours per year.

“Due to its central location in Europe and the unique potential it offers in terms of industry and research, North Rhine-Westphalia is an ideal model region and starting point for developing a hydrogen economy in Germany and Europe,” explains Professor Manfred Fischedick, Vice President of the Wuppertal Institute and head of the working group on hydrogen at IN4climate.NRW. Eight industrial companies (AirLiquide, Amprion, BP, Covestro, Open Grid Europe, RWE, Shell and thyssenkrupp) and four research institutes (the Wuppertal Institute, Fraunhofer UMSICHT, BFI and IW Köln) together have developed the paper. The authors see hydrogen as the key to success in terms of industrial transformation and a climate-neutral future. At the same time, hydrogen offers great opportunities for economic growth in NRW and Germany – with an estimated potential added value running into billions and a high potential for future-proof jobs.

All the companies contributing to the discussion paper are already involved in projects which promote hydrogen technologies and thus set the course for a key role for hydrogen in the future. The projects focus, for instance, on carbon-neutral steel production, the production of hydrogen on an industrial scale using electrolysis, the development of the transport infrastructure by converting natural gas pipelines, the use of green hydrogen in refineries, and the promotion of sector coupling.

New hydrogen strategy
“We now need the necessary regulatory conditions and positive economic incentives to make climate-neutral hydrogen accessible to the whole of the industrial sector,” explains Klaus Kesseler, Head of Climate Protection, CO2, Approvals at thyssenkrupp Steel AG. “We welcome the fact that the federal government is stressing the importance of hydrogen in its 2030 climate protection programme and compiling a national hydrogen strategy; in our opinion, the creation of an efficient transport infrastructure is of paramount importance to this strategy. Climate-neutral hydrogen is currently not competitive – the hydrogen strategy must address this problem. What is more, we need additional capacity for electricity generated from renewable energy sources to produce hydrogen,” Kesseler goes on to explain.

The paper was written by the IN4climate.NRW working group on hydrogen. The participants of the platform develop new cross-sector ideas to promote industrial climate-friendly processes and products. The discussion paper on hydrogen is the first publication from IN4climate.NRW.

 

More information:
Wasserstoff
Source:

Fraunhofer-Institut für Umwelt-, Sicherheits- und Energietechnik UMSICHT