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Improving textile hygiene

One of the problems protective clothing and sportswear manufacturers are faced with is finding a polypropylene-based fabric which remains comfortable and hygienic to its users.

EUREKA project E! 2709 BASTEX has developed new antibacterial additives which can be incorporated into polypropylene material to produce high-performance clothing. The outcome of this project has been so successful that results have been adapted to bed linen in hospitals and other healthcare establishments – creating an important growth in the market.

Protective clothing and sportswear needs to be tough and resilient to physical strain, so a fabric based on polypropylene is ideal. But unlike wool or cotton, polypropylene is not absorbent of sweat, so fabric made from it quickly becomes unpleasant to use. The participant in the BASTEX project worked on resolving this problem by selecting the optimum features for antibacterial additives and developing antibacterial-incorporated polypropylene fibres and textile materials based on these fibres.

Eliminating unpleasant odours

V-C is the Slovak Republic’s professional research institute for textile chemistry, textile and clothing manufacture. Its own role in the project was to develop selected types of antimicrobial additive, or biostat. Project coordinator Dr Jozef Šesták of V-C describes how it developed a new biostat with an inorganic base. “All additives previously used for this purpose had an organic chemical carrier, which has an unpleasant smell for the user and can give rise to environmental problems when the time comes for disposal. Our new antibacterial additives are a major improvement on existing antibacterials because they use inorganic carriers. The new biostat is much more acceptable to those who will wear the final protective clothing and avoids the environmental problems.”

Among the two Czech SMEs involved, Trevos Kostalov is specialised in polypropylene fibres for a wide range of uses; while Spolsin contributed with its experience in knitted fabrics for sportswear and textiles for work protective clothing. Trevos Kostalov developed new types of polypropylene fibres and refined the production process needed for incorporating the antibacterials. In order to develop fabrics suitable for larger-scale manufacture, it measured and determined the performance of biostatic fibres. The optimum concentration of additive was defined so that it would be effective as an antibacterial and maintain its hygienic potential and wearer comfort, while not affecting the mechanical and physical properties of the polypropylene fibres and the durability of the fabric.

Thanks to the success of this project, the antimicrobial biostat market is set to expand substantially, currently producing about 1 ton per year amounting to 35,000 euro annually. However, they have the capacity to produce 12 tons. Dr Šesták comments: “We are ready to sell in larger quantities but customers need time to get used to the idea of these new products.” According to V-C market research, up to 10% of sports and protective clothing products could eventually be offered with antimicrobial treatment. It would not have been possible without EUREKA. “Working as a EUREKA project has given us the major benefit of cooperation within an international team of researchers and manufacturers. We made a lot of new contacts and gained much experience in seeing the results of our research being applied in practice,” reveals Šesták.

Sally Horspool | alfa
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