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Posted: Jan 11, 2013
(Nanowerk News) Scientists are developing novel textiles from 100 % renewable and natural materials. Groundcovers and insect screens are among the numerous products targeted for application of the eco-friendly technology.
Europe is committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the use of non-renewable materials of fossil fuel origin. In assessing the future of textiles and clothing, bio-renewable polymers have emerged as a promising alternative to conventional petrochemical-based polypropylene (PP) materials.
Bio-renewable polymers are widely used for low-end products such as packaging materials. However, their properties, lifetime and bio-degradation schedules after use do not currently support their application to the desired end products. Although market share of bio-based polymers is high and growing, extending applications through modifications will be the key to continued success.
In the first case, natural fibre-based groundcovers are being upgraded through application of furan-based bioresins to provide an important increase in service life. In the second case, starch-based or polyactic acid (PLA)-based melt-processable biopolymers are being made into a range of products including yarns and tapes. Further processing with standard techniques is being exploited to produce a range of products such as ground covers and insect screens.
Scientists have developed a wide range of biopolymers and evaluated their compatibility with production methods (e.g. textile extrusion). Formulations are being evaluated and optimised. The consortium has also evaluated a number of natural fibre types for processing characteristics, yield and properties leading to important improvements. A number of water-based bioresins have also been developed and tested on an industrial scale. Preliminary bio-degradation tests confirmed extended product life of biopolymers treated with bioresins and of PLA-based materials in general.
Partners are carrying out field tests on industrial demonstrators of all processes at selected locations and the first agrotextile products are being brought to market. Longer lifetimes and compatibility with composting are important benefits together with reduced GHG emissions associated with materials and processing. Widespread uptake will follow competitive pricing enabled by supportive government measures and gradual price reductions in the biopolymers themselves.
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