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 does not absorb sweat, meaning this type of fabric quickly becomes unpleasant and even unhygienic to use. EUREKA project E! 2709 BASTEX has developed inorganic antibacterial additives that can be incorporated into polypropylene fibres, improving textile hygiene and comfort for users on the move. Depending on whether the final fabric is made from biostatic polypropylene fibres alone, or in combination with cotton or wool, it has a wide range of uses as industrial textiles, work clothing or sportswear.
Bringing together three companies from the Slovak and Czech Republics, project participants focused on selecting the optimum features for antibacterial additives and developing antibacterial-incorporated polypropylene fibres, and textile materials based on these fibres.
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 Sestak 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." The inorganic carrier binds the biostat to fibres; either in polypropylene alone, as in industrial textiles, or in combination with cotton, as in work wear and bed linen. V-C developed a range of antibacterials and tested their antimicrobial activity over a range of concentrations; alone and also incorporated into fibres and textiles.
Among the partners from the Czech Republic, Trevos Kostalov is an SME producing specialised polypropylene fibres for a wide range of uses; while Spolsin is a producer of 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.
Our new antibacterial additives are a major improvement on existing antibacterials … The new biostat is much more acceptable to those who will wear the final protective clothing and it avoids environmental problems.
Dr Jozef Šesták,
V-C, Slovak Republic
Spolsin has a strong emphasis on research into novel textiles, and as part of the BASTEX project; it developed a wide range of textile fabrics made from biostatic polypropylene fibres. At all stages of the project, the antibacterial additives, fibres and textiles were developed to meet hygienic and performance requirements of the relevant Slovak and Czech national and European standards.
The EUREKA BASTEX project has resulted in a continuous development of a new range of products, mainly protective work clothing and sportswear, with an advanced level of hygiene and wearer protection against bacteria. For instance, V-C, in collaboration with another Slovak textile manufacturer, already produces a range of antimicrobial polypropylene cotton bed linen for hospitals and other healthcare establishments. Trevos Kostalov is manufacturing antimicrobial polypropylene fibres in that form for home and export markets, while Spolsin is using the fibres for manufacturing underwear, sports T-shirts and socks - which are already available on the market. Other possibilities lie in clothing for healthcare and for filtration materials in the food industry.
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.
Dr Jozef Sestak,
V-C, Slovak Republic
V-C expects the market for the antimicrobial biostat to expand substantially. It currently produces about 1 ton per year amounting to 35,000 euro annually and has the capacity to produce 12 tons. Dr Sestak 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.
"Working as a EUREKA project," says Dr Sestak, "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. We have been able to see new products being introduced step-by-step and the cooperation is continuing as we are still evaluating the antimicrobial efficiency of the products after they have come onto the market."