RST technology adds function to temperature sensitive fibres
31st August 2012, Perth, WA & Greer, SC
Alexium announced this week that it has successfully demonstrated its Reactive Surface Technology (RST) treatments for functionalizing temperature-sensitive fibres such as high-performance polyolefins to add new properties such as antimicrobial, adhesion promotion, and flame retardancy.
Industry has shown a great deal of interest in high performance polyolefin fibres due to their high chemical resistance and impact strength as well as their low moisture absorption and very good abrasion resistance properties.
High performance polyolefin fibres are also said to be gaining market share in a number of industries, including high end industrial, medical, and consumer product applications such as sporting goods, ballistic protection, and climbing ropes.
Alexium says that until now, functionalizing the inert surface of polyolefin materials has been a key technical barrier for many potential applications. For example, poor adhesion between the fibre and resin in composite structures is a common failure mode and cause for premature mechanical failures.
In addition, the company says, to functionalize these fibres, economically viable treatments often damage the properties of the fibre itself due to thermal or chemical degradation. Alexium claims it has now successfully demonstrated its RST process for durable, functional treatments to polyolefin fibres. The technology uses cold microwave technology to coat fibres via a shrink wrap effect of the coating around the fibre. The company says it is also initiating several commercial demonstration pilots to apply antimicrobials, adhesion promoters, and flame retardants to polyolefin fibres.
Expanding polyolefin fabric useage
“Polyolefin fibres, while advantageous in many high-end technical applications, melt and decompose at such low temperatures that coating options and market applications are limited. Given the abundance of polyolefin applications and the gap in providing functional treatment options, we are carefully selecting targets and working with several market leaders to apply coatings that have the potential to expand polyolefin fabric usage into new applications and add significant value to existing applications, “says Stefan Susta, Alexium’s COO and Executive Director.
Alexium’s RST process is said to be ideally suited for treating high-performance polyolefins because the fibres are transparent to microwave processing and are not directly heated. Through the process, Alexium’s RST chemistries are directly cured on the fibre surface while the fibre effectively remains cold.
“The conventional heat curing methods are not a solution for many temperature sensitive fabrics. We anticipate that our RST process will offer a whole new range of applications for these technical fabrics,” remarked Dr. Bob Brookins, CTO of Alexium.
According to Alexium, European consumption of polyolefin textiles alone was nearly 2.5 million tons in 2006, with continued annual market growth - the largest end-use markets were technical textiles (950,000 tons) and carpets (635,000 tons) and the polyolefin textile market in Europe alone is estimated to be at least $2.5 billion.
Alexium holds proprietary patent applications for a process developed initially by the US Department of Defense, which allows for the surface modification and attachment of nano particles or multiple chemical functional groups to surfaces or substrates to provide functions such as water proofing, oil proofing, anti-microbial, non-stick and UV protection. Applications under development include but are not limited to textiles, paints, packaging, glass and building materials.
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Author: Billy Hunter