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REPETEX: Creating Green, Durable Water-Repellent Textiles

The development of durable water repellent (DWR) treatments were originally based on perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and became prominent in the 1950s as part of the PPE within the technical textiles market.

This was primarily for first responders, military personnel and outdoor industrial workers, making it safer, more comfortable and breathable.

In recent times, water repellent apparel has become a growing trend in high-end fashion, sports and leisure wear, with increasing demands to produce breathable durable repellent apparel whilst maintaining the original properties and comfortable feel of the textile.

However, the ongoing concerns and heightened regulation of perfluorocarbons and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFCs and PFASs), is driving the textile market to search for sustainable alternative chemistries. There is a clear demand for alternative, greener, durable water repellents (DWR) for textiles.

The current state of the art that offers the highest level of repellency for both oil and water resistance has been achieved using highly fluorinated chemical substances. Unfortunately, the best performing PFCs, known as C8 due to the 8 carbon atoms in their backbone chain, also raise significant health and environmental concerns that surround the loss of fluorinated by-products from textiles.

The concern of toxic releases is throughout the lifecycle of the product, from production to end-of-life. The by-products are known to be bioaccumulative and extremely persistent in the environment/food chain and are possibly carcinogenic.

The solution requires both chemical and process expertise, which is being formulated by the REPETEX consortium.

The innovation of REPETEX lies within the use of functionalised silica (silicon dioxide) nanoparticles to provide superhydrophobic properties. Within the area of textiles, the superhydrophobic properties result from manipulating the natural surface roughness of the textile microstructure fibres with selectively designed surface chemistry (with low surface energy).

Designing the surface chemistry to work synergistically with the microstructure of the textile offers enhanced repellency to both polar and non-polar liquids.

 

The REPETEX consortium is composed of four UK SMEs and TWI, facilitating a supply chain with the necessary expertise.

The project is in the early stages and is currently developing the ink formulation, combined with the functionalised silica nanoparticles to offer low surface energy properties to textiles. This will be achieved through a materials-by-design approach, selecting the necessary functional properties and size of silica nanoparticle to be introduced into the ink formulation. This will allow for ink jet printing application onto the textile, which provides a high level of deposition accuracy.

REPETEX is designing the textile surface for a greener, durable water repellent finish.

For more information please email:


contactus@twi.co.uk