Biodegradable technical fabrics with improved thermal properties for the automotive sector

The main goal of the project is to develop more sustainable textile components for vehicle interiors such as headliners and upholstery, which combine biodegradability with enhanced thermal properties compared to commercially-available products.

The objective of these new components will be therefore to perform fabrics with better behaviour to the high temperatures of exposure in the interior of a vehicle while offering adequate levels of abrasion, fastness and anti-pilling without affecting compliance with the strict technical requirements demanded by vehicle manufacturers. In order to successfully meet these goals, technical textile fibres will be developed from new improved grades of polylactic acid (PLA) polymers which, when incorporated into a textile will allow the manufacture of sustainable, innovative fabrics with a value-added factor for both the Automotive and Textile Industries. The current environmental awareness is driving many different manufacturing sectors, including textiles and the automotive industry towards the exploration of new lighter and more environmentally-friendly materials andl also more sustainable manufacturing processes, less contaminating and more flexible. The result of this research is the introduction of innovative high-performance sustainable products - in this case technical fibres and textiles with improved properties - functionality and environmental protection, to substitute those currently used. Textiles play an important role in the automotive sector, evidenced by the vast quantities of fabric the sector consumes. The total weight of fabric used in a car has increased from 20 kg in 2000 to approximately 30 kg today, and this is expected to rise to 35 kg by 2020. Bearing in mind these 35 kg used in interiors, headliners, upholstery, rugs, seat belts, filters, linings and soundproofing and the estimated total production of 90 million vehicles for 2020, the total of fabric for this sector will rise to 3,000 tons per year. This growth is characterized by increasing demands for more comfortable, safer vehicles and a reduction of vehicle’s weight and noise levels, as well as fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. With regard to the type of textiles used by the world’s vehicle manufacturers, the trend is towards increasing the use of woven and knitted fabrics, notwithstanding the growing demand for non-woven fabrics and the incipient penetration of composites materials. These factors are creating a growing interest within the vehicle industry for the development of natural-fibre textile structures and those coming from renewable resources. Polyester (PET) is the material of choice currently for this industry, as it meets a whole range of requirements from the manufacturers including mechanical and thermal performance, colour fastness, abrasion resistance and anti-pilling. However, the trend is to search for more sustainable materials, as PET is obtained from non-renewable resources and recycling it is difficult as it is often blended with other plastics. One of the alternatives being used now is PLA, which is derived from corn and which is gathering greater interest in recent years. Despite representing an interesting potential alternative, vehicle manufacturers are discovering that PLA has relatively poor heat resistance limits, therefore its use in applications where prolonged exposure to high temperatures, (such as in a vehicle interior), is needed, render it an inappropriate material. The interior of a vehicle exposed to direct sunlight can reach 80ºC and this would seriously damage any component that does not have the necessary resistance, affecting its aesthetics and function. The BIOSEAT project proposes to research solutions to the problems associated with the use of conventional PLA in many different car components such as headliners and seat and headrest upholstery. In order to achieve this objective, textile fibres will be developed from PLA polymer resins including different stereo complexes, and the functionalization of PLA polymer resins with additives to improve heat resistance and the VICAT softening temperature. ANTEX will undertake the development of the fibres, and set up and optimise the melt-spinning process for the material in addition to the various post-manufacturing processes the fibre requires, including texturizing, twisting and dyeing. MARTUR will research the development of the functional textiles and set up and optimise the weaving and knitting processes (circular knitting, weft knitting, etc.) and the different finishing processes such as flame laminating. MARTUR will also be in charge of preparing the final upholstered prototypes, including the headrest and headliners which will also require the optimisation of the cutting and stitching procedures. Secondary target is to carry out a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for determining environmental impact and demonstrate the benefits of the production method according to other methods objectively. The LCA will be performed by the third party BUTEKOM.
Project ID: 
12 177
Start date: 
Project Duration: 
Project costs: 
310 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Thermoplastic textile fibres
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.