|Period||01 / 2011 - 12 / 2012|
|Objective of the project
The basic objective of the project is to develop new high end textile products based for 100% on natural fibres and bio-based or biopolymers
Producers and users of woven and non-woven fabrics
Additional basic research is needed both in the area of development and formulation of the biopolymers as in the processing, to generate new fibre materials with tailored biodegradability and functional properties adapted to the end applications envisaged. An interactive knowledge basis should be generated between:
- all the ingredients used in the experimental formulations: the bio-based polymers, the natural fibres or side products and the bio-based functional matrices or finishes,
- the processing aspects (melt processing, shear rate, cooling and crystallisation conditions, draw ratio, fineness and cross-section) defining the morphological structure,
- the textile processing into woven or knitted structures or non-wovens,
- resulting properties including mechanical (tenacity, elongation, modulus) and functional properties (flammability, UV-resistance),
- controlled biodegradation under different environmental conditions (soil burial, composting conditions).
The following families of bio-based polymers will be evaluated in the research:
- melt-processable starch based polymers,
- polyester based biopolymers more in specific PLA and PHB,
- lignin polymers, a biopolymer derived from wastes from wood pulp production,
- furan based prepolymers prepared from chemicals extracted from natural side- and waste products from food or wood production.
Different melt-processing extrusion techniques will be used and optimised in order to transfer the formulated bio-based polymers into textile products including: monofilaments, tape structures, multifilament and staple fibres. Since new polymers and combinations of polymers are envisaged, the processes should be optimised accordingly. Processing conditions and equipment will be studied and adapted in order to control their impact on the mechanical properties and the biodegradation aspect. These properties are directly linked to the morphology defined by crystalline size, type of crystal and orientation both in crystalline and amorphous zones. A knowledge base on this complex interaction pattern will be developed, facilitating the tailor made production of textile products with an optimal property range.
In addition, natural fibres, preferentially recycled or side products from natural fibre production (short fibre fraction), will be used alone or in combination with the bio-based polymer fibres into agrotextile structures. Via the innovative furan chemistry a novel route for thermosets will be created and will be developed as a textile finishing technique. Via this chemistry a preservation effect will be created that will assist to monitor the biodegradation properties. This will result in an important upgrade and valorisation of the low end natural fibre products.
The resulting knowledge base on the bio-based fibres, the natural fibres and the preservation finishing, will facilitate the tailor made production of textiles with an optimal property range and biodegradability according the application. This includes:
- mechanical properties to be varied between medium to high tenacity (3 up to 5cN/dtex) and elongation at break (brittleness) between 10 to 50%. Other important mechanical properties are stiffness/flexibility, softness, shrink resistance, etc.
- fibre mats produced from natural fibres (wastes, recycled) only or in combination with bio-based fibres and functionalised with bioresins leading to products with a lower weight/m² (50% reduction), improved mechanical properties (> 50%) and an increased life-time (> 100%) under biodegradation conditions (soil burial test)
- the biodegradation needs to be varied from fast to very slow and this under different conditions including: soil burial, high temperature and humidity conditions, composting conditions in such a way that lifetimes for agrotextiles can be guaranteed varying from a number of weeks (one crop protection) over 1 or several seasons up to 5 years or more for applications where a high durability is requested.
This can imply that the existing durability tests or biodegradation tests (e.g. soil burial or composting ) are no longer fulfilling the needs to prove the potentials of the innovative products. Adapted testing methods will be developed that are in close correlation with the new envisaged end applications and properties aimed at. In addition tests will be performed to evaluate what type of products are generated during the biodegradation and up to what extent these can generate toxicity or environmental problems.
Within agrotextiles and related out-door used textiles a large variety of applications are possible each requesting a different set of properties and permanency. Within the project a number of specific applications are selected as models to define up to what extent the envisaged formulations can fulfill the demands:
- cloth for covering crops: creating micro-climate and crop protection against insects applied either out-door or in green houses, requested life time: 1 season (2 to 8 months) slow degradation under soil burial test - fast degradation under composting conditions
- support for natural grass mats: to be applied in the earth strengthening the turf and/or stabilising slopes, should retain its properties during 1 up to 5 years; slow degradation under soil burial test - fast degradation under composting,
- groundcovers (prevention of weed growth and use of herbicides, support the water housekeeping of the ground) and bioficial grass for residential market: contact with the ground and micro organisms, stability during several years minimum 5, increased degradation under composting conditions
- textiles for applications in green-houses, sun-screens, limitation of heat-loss, light reflection, durability minimum 5 years under high temperature and high humidity conditions
- other out-door application (nets for bird protection, hail protection or sunscreens) minimum durability 5 years under high UV conditions.
- Transport bags/containers for reforestry and land recultivation (moisture management, protection against overdrying, prolongation of watering) durability 1-3 years.
It will be impossible and it is out of the scope of the project to develop for all these applications industrial products. Within the project the major aim is to develop the appropriate biopolymer formulations; the appropriate processing routes and the knowledge base on their effect on the intrinsic properties especially the biodegradation aspects. As proof of concept 4 examples of end products will be selected, developed and implemented as demonstrators of the technical and economical viability of the developed products and processes. The examples will be selected in such a way that they are covering the most extreme (and demanding) area s of the potential agrotextile applications
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