Flue gases from the steel manufacturing industry contain a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO), harmful gases for the environment but valuable components for chemical production of synthetic materials. Elastic textile filaments are a recently developed synthetic material in which 20% of the oil-based reactants are replaced by waste gas from the steel industry.
Currently, the majority of elastic fibers rely on the extraction of crude oil and are extremely damaging to the environment. Nevertheless, elastic filaments are nowadays present in every stretchable fabric in commercial and technical textiles. In the quest to find more durable material compositions, Carbon4PUR is a pioneering research project, led by polymer developer Covestro, with 14 partners from 7 European countries. Their research has shown that the usage of crude oil, in the production of plastics, could partially be replaced by the use of CO2 and CO.
Researchers within Carbon4PUR succeeded in making elastic textile filaments based on CO2 partly replacing fossil-based resources as raw material. The elastic yarn is made from a chemical component called Cardyon®, a polymer, in which captured CO2 is rigidly built-in as carbonate into the polymer chain. This thermoplastic yarn is woven using a 'melt-spinning technique that does not require environmentally damaging solvents, unlike most petroleum-based filaments today.
While the basic material, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), has already been commercialized, the melt-spinning process is currently upscaled from technical to industrial scale. In other words, this textile technology is almost ready for the market. The new sustainable elastic yarns can be used for a vast variety of textiles such as clothing, medical textiles, or technical textiles. In the long run, they could replace conventional elastic fibers based on crude oil.
This material was created within Carbon4PUR, a European consortium working to generate an economic application to CO/CO2 waste streams. The project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
Covestro is a company that specialises in the production of new polymer materials.