PFC-free outdoor and work wear
Functional textiles are water and dirt repellent as well as breathable. A microporous membrane made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is often responsible for the fact that everything runs off on their surfaces and is still permeable to perspiration. However, individual steps in their manufacture have proven to be environmentally harmful and the PTFE membrane is difficult to process. More and more manufacturers of outdoor and work wear are therefore looking for new materials. Alternative microporous membrane laminates based on polypropylene and polyester have been developed by the innBW partners Deutsche Institute für Textil- und Faserforschung Denkendorf (DITF) and Hohenstein Institut für Textilinnovation (HIT).
Microporous membranes have tiny pores. No water in liquid form can pass through them. However, they are large enough to allow water molecules to escape in a gaseous state. This makes a decisive contribution to the protective function and wearing comfort of textiles. The advantage of microporous membranes made of polypropylene and polyester over the frequently used fluoropolymer is the lower environmental impact during production, processing and disposal. Polypropylene is the second most commonly used standard plastic and is often used in packaging.
Membranes and laminates made from innovative nonwoven-based membranes made from extremely fine fibers can be produced much more cost-effectively than with established systems. They do not rustle and are therefore particularly quiet to wear. In addition to their functionality, laminates based on microporous PP films were particularly advantageous in the life cycle assessment. In addition to the detailed comparison of the membrane laminates developed, the project showed that the ecological balance of an entire functional jacket depends mainly on the manufacture of the fabric and its service life.
The result of the research project was positive: for good water repellency, fluorine-containing impregnations of the fabrics can be replaced by fluorine-free alternatives available on the market. This makes it possible to produce PFC-free clothing without perfluorinated or polyfluorinated chemicals.
The scientists from the two research institutes in Denkendorf and Bönnigheim carried out the project together with companies and suppliers along the entire value chain. The results of the Baden-Württemberg research project help small and medium-sized companies to develop new products. Process developments, functional tests of suitability for use and life cycle assessments as well as cost analyses pave the way for later application.