REPETEX, an Innovate UK-funded project, is working on developing new water repellent fabrics that are both safe and sustainable.
The project is being spearheaded by a consortium featuring Promethean Particles, inkjet ink manufacturer Mexar, North West Textiles Network, Manchester Manufacturing Group and The Welding Institute (TWI).
According to Promethean Particles, in today’s scenario, the highest level of water and oil repellency is achieved by using highly fluorinated chemical substances.
However, these contain toxic perfluorocarbons and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFCs and PFASs).
“Durable water repellent technologies have been traditionally incorporated into technical textiles for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) applications, utilized by first responders, military personnel and outdoor industrial workers,” says Promethean Particles Technical Manager, Dr Selina Ambrose.
“More recently, there has also been a trend for water repellent apparel within high-end fashion, sports and leisurewear markets.”
“As demand for such fabrics increases, it has become necessary to find a manufacturing solution that is greener and safer yet doesn’t comprise the other key functionalities of these high-performance textiles including durability, comfort and breathability.”
“The objective of this project is to deliver a cost-effective, alternative treatment that provides textiles with durable repellent characteristics, while retaining performance,” notes Ambrose.
“The unique nanoparticle manufacturing process that Promethean has developed will be crucial to bringing this to fruition.”
Promethean Particles’ functionalized silica (silicon dioxide) nanoparticles can be incorporated into a water-based ink for digitally printing on to textiles.
These nanoparticles play a key role in providing superhydrophobic properties by manipulating the natural surface roughness of the textile microstructure fibers with selectively designed surface chemistry.
This further enables the uplift required from superhydrophobic performance at the nanoscale level without the use of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) – a toxic byproduct of PFCs.
Promethean Particles’ market-disrupting continuous-flow production process ensures the nanoparticles manufactured are reproducible on a large scale, without affecting performance and quality.
Thousands of liters in output can be achieved, generating a huge reduction in production costs compared to a batch process, that can be passed to textile manufacturers.
The consortium contends that the water repellent technology is primarily for cotton, polyester and cotton-polyester blends.
But, if proven successful, it can be adapted for a wide range of other fabrics too in the near future.
Image and content: Promethean Particles