Dyeing to discover colour secrets

21 Dec 2011

SCI and the Society of Dyers and Colourists recently organised a joint event to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry. The conference on the Chemistry of Textiles was held at SCI headquarters and chaired by former UK MP Dr Brian Iddon.

Joanne Lyall, SCI executive director 2010-13, and Andrew Filarowski, acting chief executive officer, SDC, welcomed the delegates and stressed the importance of textile materials in everyday life. Derek Heywood, vice chairman, SCI Board of Trustees, discussed many aspects of the chemistry of the clothes we wear and demonstrated how chemical treatments and specific chemical finishes can be utilised to confer dimensional stability together with the required blend of aesthetic and functional properties desired by consumers.

Alain Langerock, business development manager, Devan, Belgium, explained that Devan is a technology company that produces speciality chemical finishes for the textile industry, which has led to innovative processing treatments.

He concentrated on the benefits of antimicrobial finishes, such as Devan's AEGISTM technology. This non-migrating antimicrobial agent is fixed to the fibre surface via a coating which microorganisms in the textile attached to. The microorganisms are then deactivated by puncturing the cell membrane, preventing further growth.

House dust mite populations can be controlled because AEGISTM technology deactivates the fungi the mites need for the pre-digestion of their food - human skin cells.

Dr Andrew Towns, research manager, Vivimed Labs Europe, Huddersfield, UK, described the production of hair colorants, photochromic dyes and organic semi-conductors. Hair colorants could be of the temporary type (lasting for 1-2 washes), or semi-permanent (5-10 washes), or permanent for hair coloration.

The application conditions posed many restrictions, for example; at temperatures below 40°C, or pH 6-11 they have to be applied at a low liquor ratio. Photochromic dyes applied to textiles (eg polypropylene) can undergo a reversible colour change under the influence of ultraviolet or visible radiation.

Reversion to the original state occurred via thermal means - T-type - rather than the photochromic dyes used in ophthalmic lenses, which change back when subjected to a different light - P-type. These novel dyes are normally applied by mass coloration or via screenprinting.

The final presentation, by Cheryl Kindness, development director, Camira Fabrics, described her company's approach to sustainability in a business producing 8 million metres of fabric per year for the interiors of offices, and for the hospitality, leisure, education and transport sectors.

Camira Fabrics was awarded the Queen's Award for Sustainable Development in 2010. It was second nature in the company to recycle materials, and to use renewable and compostable materials, as well as climate-neutral materials, she said.

Natural fibres such as wool, jute, hemp and nettles are used, often in blends to achieve specific aesthetic/functional performance features. Novel approaches to product design and process control lead to substantial waste reduction and introduce innovative fabrics and also fabrication methods for seating.

Further research and development is in hand to improve the sustainability of products and processes within Camira, as well as evaluating novel approaches such as the effects of plasma laser treatments on textiles, she noted.

Ian Holme

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