- Eco-design and production of water and oil repellents
- Comply with the environmental demands of international organisations
- Reinforce the company’s open innovation strategies
There is a high demand for textiles that repel water, oil and dirt in many sectors (SportsTech, MedTech, HomeTech, GeoTech, MobilTech). Water and oil repellent (WOR) textiles have been developed successfully in recent decades by applying WOR-chemicals on the fibres’ surface. Many of these chemicals are based on long-chain fluorocarbons. However, the use of fluorochemicals also has significant disadvantages, such as high cost and the potential risks that long-chain fluorocarbons create for human health and the environment. The development of alternative products that can produce environmentally friendly WOR textiles is therefore highly desirable.
In 2014, Color Center began to develop a new range of ECO-designed WOR-chemicals for use in the textile finishing industry. Development work was done in collaboration with the Leitat Technological Center, with the support of a NUCLIS grant from the Catalonian Government for international technological cooperation projects.
Omniphobic (hydrophobic and oleophobic) surfaces are strong repellents of both water and low surface-tension liquids. To achieve the correct properties, surfaces must combine a hierarchical structure (micro-nano texturisation) and low surface energy.
The approach adopted in the ECO-WOR project was to design innovative surface-coating technologies using more sustainable biopolymers with controlled microstructures, to avoid the use of traditional long-chain fluorocarbons.
The first milestone was polymer synthesis, which was achieved by designing the right combination of micro-nano domains and low surface-energy functionalities (short-chain perfluoroalquil groups) within the polymer structure. The synthesised polymers were then carefully formulated into waterborne dispersions using advanced homogenising technologies. Finally, the obtained dispersions were used to coat different fabrics, which were then subjected to several characterisation tests to evaluate their WOR properties. It was found that the material coated with the new polymer dispersions was able to repel watery and oily liquids into forming tight droplets due to the surface’s texture and chemical properties. This made it possible to create a range of chemical products for the development of omniphobic surfaces.
Color Center has released a full range of WOR-dispersions based on eco-designed polymers, which are less harmful, have improved sustainability profiles, and demonstrate outstanding performance.
The new product range is being marketed under the UNIPERL and CENTERGARD D brands and is able to fulfil the most demanding market needs, in terms of water and/or oil repellence.
Results and Benefits
Color Center is now better positioned in the market for technical textile finishing products.
The ECO-WOR project has enabled the company to access new sectors, including Medical Textiles (MedTech), as well as polypropylene finishing. In the latter case, thanks to the new products developed, Color Center has overcome some technical limitations of the polypropylene fibre.
Since the end of project in mid-2017, the company has entered into collaboration with 6 new clients (4 national and 2 international) in new projects that involve the newly developed products.