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Devan Chemicals launched two new technologies at Techtextil this year: Bio-flam, a bio-based flame retardant (FR) treatment and Odour Breakdown, a non-biocidal odour control product. Bio-flam is made from renewable, vegetable sources and enables the FR-treated products to be biodegradable. The active components are halogen- and heavy metal-free, the company reports.

Bio-flam P307 is designed to be used on 100 percent cotton or cotton/viscose mixtures. The product is intended for mattress ticking to pass EN 597 1&2. The Devan researchers are developing other bio-based products for other market segments and for other fire standards, the company states.

The company reports its technologies aim to meet the challenge to obtain flame retardant properties in the most natural way, to find the right balance between safety for people and the planet.

Devan’s Odour Breakdown is designed to capture and neutralize malodours produced by the bacteria breaking down acids in sweat. The technology also reportedly reduces the adherence of bacteria on the fabrics, allowing them to be home laundered easily. 

The product has different application levels, based on an individual product need. The desired wash durability will determine the level of application, the company says.

The aim of the product is to enable consumers to wash less and at lower temperatures without compromising comfort and hygiene. The product can be combined with Devan’s Moov&Cool technology, designed to help users cool during sports activities.

Devan Chemicals is a worldwide developer of specialty chemicals for textiles, headquartered in Belgium and with offices in the U.K., Portugal and the U.S.

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Italian knitted fashion fabrics producer Piave Maitex recently launched a new line called Again. Piave Maitex is a European producer of elastic fabrics, underwear fabrics and sportswear fabrics. The dyeable and transfer printable fabrics are designed to combine functionality with sustainable features in performing jerseys, a recentKnitting Industryarticle reports. 

Two Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified sustainable ingredients went into the production of Again: stretch fibre Roica EF (part of Roica Eco-Smart family), which is constructed of more than 50 percent pre-consumer recycled content; and perPETual polyester, yarns created from recycled PET bottles.

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New Zealand company Revolution Fibres has collaborated with Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company Inc. to develop a next-generation nanofiber interleaving veil for improving the toughness of carbon fiber composites. According to the companies, the new material, Xantu.Layr® XLB, has particularly strong application possibilities in the aerospace sector.

The product is an ultra-thin nonwoven web consisting of kilometre long thermoplastic nanofibers, with each one around 500 times thinner than a human hair. When placed in-between the plies of carbon fiber in a composite laminate, it is said to significantly improve the fracture toughness (delamination resistance), compression after impact strength (damage tolerance) and fatigue resistance of the composite without adding any significant thickness and weight.

The material is made from Mitsubishi’s recently developed XD10 thermoplastic, bio-based polyamide resin, LEXTER, a xylylenediamine-derived polyamide resin that has been demonstrated successfully as a thermoplastic matrix for composite materials.

It is tough, strong, and chemically resistant, and has the added benefits of being hydrophobic and highly compatible with epoxy resin when in the form of a nanofiber veil. These properties enable Xantu.Layr® XLB nanofiber interleaving veils to improve the performance of thermoset composite laminates without being compromised by exposure to high humidity, gasoline or a range of other chemicals. Another benefit is the lower cost of manufacture, resulting in a lower sale price.

Revolution Fibres is AS9100d certified, and the company says it is the first nanofiber producer to meet aerospace industry standards.

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New shape memory capabilities have application in several markets.

The Wearable Technology Laboratory at the University of Minnesota has been doing research recently in the use of integrated active materials, particularly shape memory materials, used in soft robotics. Photo: UMN Wearable Technology Lab.

At last week’s Smart Fabrics Virtual Summit, sponsored by IFAI, Brad Holschuh, Ph.D., assistant professor of wearable technology and apparel design in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota (UMN), gave a presentation titled, “Soft-Robotic Textiles Using Integrated Active Materials.” In his talk, he noted the many materials and their capabilities that can be useful in soft robotic applications, particularly in shape memory functions.

Holschuh, who co-directs the UMN Wearable Technology Laboratory (WTL), says that, because a shape memory alloy (SMA)“can change shape, and the change can be controlled in a way that is reliable and repeatable,” they can be very useful for a variety of applications and in an array of markets. Illustrating various basic technologies—variations using a spring mechanism, for example, which he called a are a “very useful, deployable technology,” he said.

The University of Minnesota’s Wearable Technology Lab has been working on new compression garments in which the treatment is controlled remotely and can be customized for each wearer and circumstance. Photo: UMN Wearable Technology Lab.

Basic compression garments have been around for quite a while, but Holschuh says, “I’ve never met a single person that says they enjoy wearing a compression garment that’s on the market. The two biggest complains are that they’re really hard to put them on, and once they’re on, they squeeze you all the time.”

It’s also “a relatively simplistic therapy. It’s not dynamic, it’s just there,” he says. Problems with existing compression garments are exacerbated when used by people who are infirm or have difficulty putting on and taking off the garment.

“The alternative is a pneumatic technology,” he says, “which can offer a degree of controllability, but pneumatic compression garments usually require that the person is stationary.”

But Holschuh’s work has taken it beyond both types and incorporated on-body actuation. “What we designed is compression garments that give you the control of a pneumatic, but give you the form factor that’s much more in line with what you can wear in your everyday life.”

An international team of researchers has developed a perception system for soft robots inspired by the way humans process information about their own bodies. The system includes a motion capture system, soft sensors, a neural network and a soft robotic finger. Photo: University of California San Diego.

Compression garments have been found to be effective for a variety of conditions, including children with autism and treatment for PTSD. In both cases, the technology can be used to create haptic stimulation on the body, he says, that mitigates anxiety and stress, for someone who might otherwise be agitated. However, he says, “The problem with the existing garments or devices, is you have to get the user to use it.”

“We’ve created a compression vest that can create compression dynamically and strategically.” It can be controlled remotely to provide compression when and where you want and nobody else will know that this is happening.

Actuators can be activated individually or in varying groups, and it’s possible to amplify the haptic experience if you put the actuators in a braid, he says. Knitted structures can be used to create two-dimensional motion (both expansion and contraction) to customize a wearable compression device. Holschuh is currently working on designing compression garments for NASA for astronauts that will be totally customizable, he says.

Because these devices can be heat activated, it is possible to use the body’s own energy without any other power source. An active panel could be taken out of a freezer, put in clothing, such as leggings, and when worn with activate in response to the wearer’s body heat. Imagine teeth braces, too, that will respond to the heat in your mouth to tighten.

Orienting the robotic fabric in two different directions causes a block of foam to either bend or compress, a principle that could be used to create robots that inch forward or slither. Photo: Purdue University /Rebecca Kramer.

Holschuh noted several other institutions that are doing interesting work with integrated active materials. UT-Dallas has used ordinary materials, such as nylon fishing line, to create “artificial muscles,” That work was published in Science in 2014, but work is ongoing. MIT has used nylon fibers made to flex like muscles, and a partnership between Purdue and Yale universities, funded by NASA, has developed SMA robotic fabric that’s wrapped over soft structures to create two- or three-dimensional structures. His colleague at UMN, Juliana Abel and others are developing active knit actuation, and Harvard Biodesign Lab is also working on mechanical actuation and soft robotics.

With a range of markets that could use these types of technologies, it’s no mystery why so many researchers are working on them. Possible uses include a new approach to tourniquets that may result in a “skin suit” for Soldiers with embedded technology, so that the clothing can respond to an injury when a medic is not at hand.

Progressive treatment for spine correction, for example, or even healing broken bones could change how these conditions are treated. Research on exoskeletons to support mobility is also underway.

Other possibilities include “smarter” spacesuits for astronauts, easy-to-control consumer shapewear and garments with changeable lift and drag properties for competitive athletes. “The goal of our research program is to have a future where clothing can change without a motor,” he says.

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at jlpreus@ifai.com.

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Innovating and commercializing to participate in future opportunities.

by Seshadri Ramkumar

Towelie is said to be the first biodegradable oil sorbent technology, functional as a wipe, mat, and a floating sorbent. It was created by engineers and outdoorsmen in the oil and gas industry to reduce the environmental impact of waste generated in oil exploration, production and transportation. Photo: Towelie.

The textiles sector has been reshaping itself due to the increasing cost of raw materials, sustainability issues, labor costs and regulatory issues. These, in a way, have been a boon to the traditional textiles sector, prompting more diverse products and value-added products with industry focus on research and developmental.

Such a necessity has enabled small- and medium-scale enterprises to develop their core strength in R&D and advanced product development. Textile technologies that focus on national defense, human health enhancements and environmental protection can provide rich returns as the market is already defined, due to procurement restrictions based in governing regulations, such as the Berry Amendment in the United States of America.

The growth picture

Andrew Aho, vice president for new business development, Industrial Fabric Association International (IFAI), recently provided the growth numbers for the advanced textiles sector at the 2019 Nonwovens Engineers and Technologists Conference (NET 2019) presented by TAPPI in Indianapolis. Protective textiles are an important growth sector included in the specialty fabrics industry. Overall the growth for advanced textiles is estimated to be about 9 percent and is valued at $71 billion, according to IFAI.

The protective textiles contribution to this sector is 6 percent. Other important contributors are high performance clothing, composites, coated textiles and smart textiles. Given that the United States’ GDP is growing about 3.2 percent, the growth in the technical textiles sector is progressing extremely well.

The nonwoven fabrics industry, which contributes to protective textiles, is expected to grow about 6.9 percent according to the Cary-based Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA). Data for the past 28 years shows that the nonwovens industry in North America has registered an average growth of 4.6 percent, while the GDP has been trending below according to Brad Kalil, director of market research and statistics for INDA.

In the protective sector, high surface area nonwoven substrates find applications in absorbent hygiene, industrial, chemical and biological decontamination wipes, filtration and medical. Depending on the level of protection, i.e., consumer, first responders, local law enforcement and defense, factors may vary, such as technology sophistication, regulations and requirements—and, of course, price.

Research and development activities in the defense sector are predominantly supported by public tax dollars funneled through government agencies and laboratories. Therefore, there is a good supportive ecosystem that can be utilized by small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs). In the U.S., SMEs like Chantilly-based First Line Tech LLC have been quite successful in translating laboratory and academic research into valuable products utilizing government’s supportive mechanisms.   

FiberTect nonwoven wipes were designed to military and first responders to clean toxic chemicals off personal protective equipment. Photo: First Line Technology.

Translational research

In the commercialization world, translating a research idea and a prototype product from laboratory to commercial space can be so challenging, that it’s earned the nickname “death-valley.” President and CEO of First Line Technology Amit Kapoor provided some practical and useful insights on how to commercialize a defense product at the NET 2019 conference.

Using FiberTect decontamination wipe as a case study, Kapoor articulated important aspects in the innovation process. According to him, these are:

  1. Money, or funding support
  2. Patience, which translates into having time
  3. Need, which also means market expectations

It was evident from his case study that, while it is good to have novel ideas and develop laboratory prototypes, it is important to plan how to execute Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). This is akin to plant breeding in a greenhouse, which must be evaluated using field plots under natural growing conditions.

Similarly, unless products can be developed using existing or refined production processes, time to commercialization may be extended, which will affect market penetration. Therefore, focus should not only be on research, but also other aspects, such as product development, scaling-up and marketing.

According to Kapoor, textile wipes have helped with the development of a new decontamination concept, “wipe-spray-wipe.” The wipe helps with bulk decontamination and the concept is gaining acceptance. “Novel techniques and products are effective if they tackle a problem and offer the right price,” he says.

Development and diversification

Research and development efforts aimed at personnel protection can spin-off into many industrial and consumer applications. This is was underscored by the concept of the Military –Industrial Complex” that emerged in the U.S. during World War II.. Since then it has been playing a vital role in boosting the research enterprise.

Textiles have benefitted from defense projects, such as personnel protection, chemical and biological countermeasures, and ballistic protection. Some of these products have fallen into other industrial and consumer marketplaces; some recent examples serve as testimony to this dynamic.

Multilayered flexible wipes, originally developed for low-cost personnel decontamination, are now used in environmental clean-up situations. In a recent presentation at Texas Tech University, Lu Yu, principal toxicologist with Phillips 66, asked the audience what comes to mind about petroleum streams. The first answer from the audience was “oil spill.”  This highlights the impact crude oil spills have on the public and the economy.

Recently, young entrepreneurs established Towelieglobal.com based in Lubbock, Texas, an startup that has commercialized oil absorbent wipes (“Towelie,”), bringing new industrial wipes into marketplace.

The protective textiles sector is attracting the conventional spinners and weaving industry, as margins in their existing businesses are shrinking. Coimbatore, India-based Kanaka Lakshmi Mills (KLM) has been weaving base fabrics for coated abrasives since 2000 with 32 projectile looms. KLM is now venturing into developing high performance composite preforms and defense clothing.

This effort by a weaver is a good example of strategic diversification based on core expertise. Companies like Towelieglobal and KLM articulate that protective and high-performance textiles provide opportunities for new startups in the textiles field. Other areas that are worth looking include smart fabric sand wearables, 3D printing of textiles, and specialized cutting and sewing for advanced textiles.

Chemical formulation companies can also diversify into functional finishes. Bengaluru, India-based Resil Chemicals have come-up with PureSilver technology that due to (111) crystal planes help with achieving higher efficiency at lower loads. Chemicals that can help with moisture management and enhance the comfort levels for soldiers and first responders should find plenty of possible applications.

Because of demand, protective textiles, particular for applications in health and environmental remediation, provide greener pastures for research and development companies, SMEs and established entities. Diversification based on core competency should be the mantra for businesses that want to enter into new markets that address minimizing risk.    

Seshadri Ramkumar, Ph.D., is the director of the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory, Texas Tech University, and a frequent contributor to Advanced Textiles Source.

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A new solar cell design has been created by scientists at the University of Sheffield, in collaboration with energy technology company Power Roll. The result may prove that creating a new type of back-contacted solar cell is possible.

A recent Off Grid Energy Independence article reported that researchers demonstrated how an architecture based on a surface embossed with micro-grooves may prove to be more efficient and less costly in the production of solar modules. The researchers coated opposing walls of micro-grooves with different electrical contacts, and then filled the grooves with solution-processable semiconductors.

The process is said to remove many manufacturing steps currently involved in the production of photovoltaic (PV) modules and to allow the use of new materials. The researchers also report Power Roll’s design uses simple electrical interconnections; has the ability to tune electrical output to user demands; and removes the need for expensive conductive oxides—possible resource savings and attractive characteristics for consumers.

Power Roll predicts modules made with this design will weigh a fraction of conventional solar modules producing equal power. Less weight could mean greater access to PV technology for people living in areas of the world not conducive to transporting heavy panels. Other applications may include portable power generation and powering the Internet of Things.

Dr. Trevor McArdle, senior research scientist at Power Roll said, “Over the last 40 years, the majority of solar cells have been based on a conventional flat structure, in which layers of different materials are deposited one upon another to create the solar cell. However, we have developed a radically different architecture to make solar cells using a surface patterned by micro-grooves that individually are a fraction of the width of a human hair.”

Source: Off Grid Energy Independence

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Danish company Haldo Topsoe A/S has developed a new catalytic solution, Preferential Oxidation Catalysis, an alternative to traditional scrubbing methods for controlling sulfur compounds found in lean off- gases. According to the manufacturer, unlike traditional scrubbing, Preferential Oxidation Catalysis does not consume sodium hydroxide nor produce wastewater.

A recent Innovation in Textiles article reports that the new technology has demonstrated the ability to selectively treat sulfur compounds to remove hydrogen sulfide from emissions while retaining carbon disulphide, which can be reused in a closed-loop viscose production process.

The innovation was developed and tested in a laboratory and at an industrial plant in collaboration with viscose manufacturer Birla Cellulose of the Aditya Birla Group. Later in 2019, Haldo Topsoe plans to build a large-scale demonstration plant in China with the Zhongtai Group.

“With the demonstration plant we expect to validate that this new solution cuts cost, secures efficient reuse of carbon disulfide and reduces sulfur emissions,” said Mr. He, president assistant, Zhongtai Group.

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Devan Chemicals and triathlon and performance brand HUUB recently announced their partnership. Devan Chemicals says that it was sparked by the need for athletic clothing designed to keep triathletes from overheating during races. Devan’s Moov&Cool formulation has been applied to HUUB’s tri-suits. 

The Moov&Cool technology is reported to contain a continuous heat absorption capacity that can assist in the heat withdrawal process. This heat absorption capacity also continues to work in wet environments, the company says, making the technology a possibility for triathletes. 

The new suits have been tested and examined by Dr. Steve Faulkner, head of sports engineering at Nottingham Trent University, who has now put forward his first findings. HUUB also conducted an independent study in conjunction with Faulkner to test the impact of the formulation on triathletes’ responses to exercise in warm conditions (25°Celcius) while wearing a standard Huub Anemoi tri-suit compared to a Anemoi suit coated with Moov&Cool technology. 

Athletes reported feeling less hot and more comfortable during exercise while wearing a coated suit. Athletes also experienced a reduction in the overall physiological strain during a 60-minute ride. The companies plan next to examine changes to physiological mechanisms such as blood flow, heat storage in the body and the effectiveness of athletes sweating.

Devan Chemicals is a worldwide developer of specialty chemicals for textiles, headquartered in Belgium and with offices in the U.K., Portugal and the U.S.

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Unifi Asia Pacific Company Limited (UAP) has entered into a strategic commercial agreement with Kipas Mensucat Isletmeleri A.S. to supply REPREVE® staple fibers in the Republic of Turkey.  UAP and Kipas will leverage the supply infrastructure in Turkey to provide quality, service, speed-to-market and REPREVE-based staple fiber offerings to fabric mills as well as brand and retail partners. 

REPREVE is made from recycled materials, including plastic bottles, and is traceable and certified through Unifi’s proprietary U TRUST® verification program. The agreement will provide customers in Turkey with rapid access to REPREVE spun yarns by utilizing the advanced capabilities of Kipas.  

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International trade fairs Techtextil and Texprocess May 14-17 at the Frankfurt Fair and Exhibition Centre, Frankfurt, Germany. It will be spotlighting the functions of textiles, especially technical textiles, and the ways in which textiles are processed.

Transport pods for the Hyperloop, textile room installations, intelligent fashions and 3D avatars that try on garments, the events showcases technical textiles and among 1,818 exhibitors from 59 countries. 

“Throughout Europe, technical textiles are one of the biggest sectors of the textile and apparel industry and thus a decisive driving force for its economic strength. Held concurrently, Texprocess and its highly innovative exhibitors stand for high-tech in the textile-processing sector, in an unrivalled, concentrated way. In this connection, we now talk about Impact 4.0, in other words significant and visible developments emerging from Industry 4.0”, says Detlef Braun, member of the executive board of Messe Frankfurt. 

Increased internationality 

Techtextil 2019 claims a 72 percent level of internationality. After Germany, the five biggest exhibitor nations are Italy (134), China (113), France (103), Switzerland (63) and the United Kingdom (62). Taking part for the first time or returning after a period of absence are Brazil, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Tunisia. Additionally, 14 countries are represented by national pavilions. Particular exhibitor growth was registered from Turkey, the Czech Republic, China, the USA and Taiwan.

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