A doctoral student who only aimed to improve the properties of an existing material has developed a new, sustainable textile
Spotted: Mostafa Jabbari, a doctoral student at the University of Borås, set out to improve the properties of the material used for textile bioreactors in his research project. However, the project took a turn when he developed a completely new textile material with better properties than the original. Named the all-polyamide composite coated textile (APCT), it is lighter, stronger, more heat and weather resistant, cheaper to manufacture, uses fewer chemicals, and is completely recyclable.
To begin with, Jabbari modified an existing material to improve its insulating properties. However, he faced problems with the adhesion between the two constituents, and found the material difficult to recycle, because it was a blended material. He then decided to use the same material — polyamide — in both the textile and coating. Compared to common methods, which have to apply a sealing layer to make the material dense, and use a lot of energy and water for adherence, Jabbari found a way to incorporate the textile and coating into each other, without using heat or large amounts of water.
The solution used to create the material was a new solvent. Jabbari dissolved the polyamide with a solvent consisting of formic acid and applied it as a thin film onto the polyamide textile. The solvent then evaporates by itself and the polyamide strands in the solution and the textile are entangled in each other, resulting in a new textile material that is impermeable. It took a few more tries to develop the perfect solvent, and at the start, it smelt bad and was expensive and flammable. Therefore, they replaced half of the amount of formic acid with urea and calcium chloride, resulting in a more environmentally-friendly solvent, although, at the moment, the process still needs to be refined to work industrially.