MUNICH – At last week’s ISPO 2012 sports gear trade show in Munich, Toray announced that the first functional performance nylon and polyester textiles based on biomass will be ready by the 2013/14 season. The company says these 100% bio-based fabrics will be used by leading brands to produce 'eco-shells' for outdoor water-proof clothing that are both lightweight and breathable.
The Japanese fibre company says it has now succeeded in developing polyamide fibres and yarns from biomass – via a process it calls ‘Hybrid Engineering’ – having initially announced some polyester biomass variants during 2011.
For sports apparel in particular, it is envisaged the biomass polyamide-based fabrics will be combined with Toray’s Dermizax EC and Entrant EC coatings and membranes – also made from biomass – to produce effective ‘eco-shells’.
Toray claims that the technical features of its biomass polyester and polyamide fibres are equal in performance profiles to conventionally-manufactured versions – on a laboratory scale, at least. They are already being produced with a substantial ratio of biomass, but 100% versions, instead of blends, are now on the way, the company promises.
The company points out that organic production is not always synonymous with sustainability and the conservation of natural resources – as is borne out by traditional cotton fibre cultivation.Toray’s Hybrid Engineering fibres, however, are based on the castor plant (ricinus communis), grown primarily in India and traditionally used both for medicinal purposes and for industrial and hydraulic oils, cosmetics and coatings.
The castor plant is very robust, growing in dry farming areas and requiring significantly fewer pesticides and herbicides than other crops. Its cultivation is not in conflict with other agriculture in the region and the recovered oil can be used sparingly. The castor plant is non-edible and harvested several times per year. Its bean contains a large amount of oil and is therefore ideal for efficient production.
“We are very proud of this significant step forward in the field of sustainability,” says Steffen Meiler, Toray’s European brand communication manager. “With our biomass products, we can protect fossil sources while still offering maximum performance. Our Hybrid Engineering programme will set entirely new standards in combining innovation and sustainability. But we will go even further. Toray works 100% vertically – everything comes from one source. In a specialised manufacturing facility in Kyoto, all of the fabrication steps – from the polymer itself to the final product, are combined under one roof. This guarantees the utmost quality through continuous monitoring and production.”