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Covestro works with partners to develop CO2-based elastic textile fibres.

Scientist Pavan Manvi from RWTH Aachen University (right) and Covestro researcher Dr. Jochen Norwig holding a synthetic fiber prototype made from CO2.

“The CO2-based material could be a sustainable alternative to conventional elastic fibres in the near future.”

German polymer materials manufacturer Covestro has developed a method of producing elastic textile fibres through the partial use of carbon dioxide.

According to Covestro, this method has helped the firm to partly replace crude oil as a raw material.

The fibres were produced in partnership with the Institute of Textile Technology at RWTH Aachen University and various textile manufacturers.

In a statement, Covestro (@covestro) said that its fibres are made from CO2-based thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) using a technique called melt spinning, in which the TPU is melted, pressed into very fine threads and finally processed into a yarn of endless fibres. Unlike conventional dry spinning, melt spinning eliminates the need for environmentally-harmful solvents.

The new material called “cardyon” is already being used for foam in mattresses and sports floorings. Covestro has also said the textiles industry is showing in an interest in the material.

Professor Thomas Gries, Director of the Institute of Textile Technology at RWTH Aachen University, said: “The CO2-based material could be a sustainable alternative to conventional elastic fibres in the near future.

“Thanks to our expertise in industrial development and processing, we can jointly drive establishment of a new raw materials base for the textile industry.”

Dr. Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro, echoed Gries comments and said that the future was “highly promising” for the “ever broader use of carbon dioxide as an alternative raw material in the chemical industry”.

He added: “Our goal is to use CO2 in more and more applications in a circular economy process and save crude oil.”

According to Covestro, CO2-based TPU fibres have special properties because they are elastic and tear-proof and so can be used in textile fabrics. Initial companies from the textile and medical engineering sectors have already tested the CO2-based TPU fibres and processed them into socks, yarns, compression tubes and tables, Covestro said.

Development of the method of producing fibres from CO2-based thermoplastic polyurethane has been funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

According to Covestro, it will now be optimised as part of the “CO2Tex” project, which is to be funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) so as to enable industrial production in the future. “CO2Tex” is part of “BioTex Future,” a project initiative of RWTH Aachen University.

The initiative is devoted to developing production and processing technologies to facilitate the future market launch of textile systems from bio-based polymeric materials.

Covestro and its partners are already working on developing production of the CO2-based TPU fibres to industrial scale and want to introduce a material cycle that is based on sustainable resources to the textile and garment industry.

If you were interested in this Covestro story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: Covestro wins German government award, as production grows to industrial levels.

Read: Genomatica and Covestro team up to research plant-based ‘high-performance’ materials.

Read: Covestro and partners to develop bio-based resin for stable timber construction materials.

Read: Covestro makes “unprecedented achievement” with the chemical used to manufacture dyes, drugs and plastics.

Download: Issue #14 Bio Market Insights Quarterly

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