A safe, versatile process for creating high-quality fabrics and films
Cellulose has potential for use in many applications that have not yet been exploited, owing to the lack of environmentally friendly methods for extracting cellulose from plants and the limited number of commercial solvents that dissolve cellulose for processing. The solvents that can dissolve cellulose for processing purposes cannot be recycled. Current processes for cellulose dissolution are cumbersome or expensive and require harsh operating conditions. As an example, the viscose-rayon process, which was developed over 100 years ago, involves heavy chemical reactions that generate hazardous by products, such as hydrogen sulfide.
Additionally, although specific fabrics for specialized clothing have existed for over 20 years, none of these fabrics have infiltrated the marketplace for their given application. A prime example of this fact is demonstrated by thermal regulating fabrics that use passively regulate the body temperature of the wearer.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new eco-friendly process for regenerating cellulose that can be used to create high-quality clothing fabric. Figure 1 provides an overview of this process. Different nanoparticles can be integrated into the process to generate desirable properties in the fabric, such as thermal conductivity or thermal insulation for self-regulating thermal clothing. The regenerated cellulose fiber produced from this process is safe, cost-effective, comfy, recyclable, and biodegradable.
Figure 1. Overview of eco-friendly process for regenerated cellulose fiber or film