The Quest to Protect
A New Age for Antimicrobial Developments & Applications.
Call it an extra barrier, or a safety shield, yet regardless of a specific label, consumers are on the lookout for materials that offer protection. Of course antimicrobials are being used widely for all sort of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), however, as the COVID crisis continues to influence how people value products in terms of security in all aspects of their lives, antimicrobials are featuring in a diverse range of end uses, whether that’s a jacket, a spin cycle accessory, upholstery and even hygiene for public spaces.
“We’ll see more along these lines, finishes with high-performance, protective claims,” said Stephen Kerns, president, Schoeller Textil NA. “The concept of ‘disease resistant’ clothing, for example, is compelling.”
The concept also resonates within the fitness market. “Gyms are opening and people are more aware of antimicrobial protection,” said Casey Chavez, founder of California based brand Lutava, which launched a line of fitness accessories with FitShield technology in June. “I think now with the pandemic, and going forward, consumers are more receptive to products with antimicrobial technology. It’s not a trend, its now a way of life,” said Chavez.
Ingredient brand specialists, like Consolidated Pathways, Sanitzed, HeiQ, and DuPont have been producing high-performing antimicrobials for years. Now, however, firms are broadening offerings to suit a today’s heightened awareness around protection, personally and in public.
For example, Consolidated Pathways has recently launched ProTecht a new family of sustainable textile finish technologies. “What we bring is different chemistries to provide multiple benefits,” said Consolidated Pathways, co-founder, Robert Monticello.
In addition, Consolidated Pathways, based in Midland, MI, will now serve as global brand and technical representative for the Sanitized line of antimicrobials focusing on commercializing Sanitized products in textiles. And, according to the companies, the new relationship allows Consolidated Pathways to “use its broad experience in polymer-based antimicrobials to extend the reach of the unique technologies that Sanitized AG offers.”
“We’ll see more along these lines, finishes with high-performance, protective claims; The concept of ‘disease resistant’ clothing, for example, is compelling.” — Stephen Kerns, president, Schoeller Textil NA
Located in Burgdorf, Switzerland, Sanitized has been a leader in antimicrobials since 1935 providing, safe antimicrobials for textiles, coatings and polymers suitable for a range of markets. In a statement released by the company earlier this month, Sanitized confirmed effectiveness of anti-viral properties of selected Sanitized products on hard, non-porous surfaces, specifically used in the area of public transportation, thus confirming the Swiss firm’s belief in today’s need for what the company refers to as “comprehensive hygiene management.”
Zurich-based HeiQ product is also gaining importance during this unsettled time of the pandemic. The introduction of Viroblock NPJ03 has already resulted in significant inroads made in the production of medical grade high-performance protective masks. The antiviral and antimicrobial textile treatment is a combination of vesicle and silver technologies, designed to inhibit the growth and persistence of bacteria and viruses and has shown during facemask testing to be effective against human coronavirus. (For more on HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 see the archived May/June issue of Textile Insight on textileinsight.com.)
The inherent performance properties of silver have an established track record in antimicrobial solutions. Other minerals, such as copper and zinc, have also been recognized in textile applications for years. In fact belief in the curative properties of natural metals dates back centuries. What’s new is how these metals are now being used in innovative ways for contemporary lifestyle applications.
Vollebak’s Full Metal Jacket is a prime example of this trend. In development for approximately 18 months, the product features a three-layer Schoeller fabric built in Switzerland that is consists of 65 percent copper, 23 percent polyamide and 12 percent polyurethane. The jacket also features Schoeller c_change membrane.
“Disease resistance will become a requirement of clothing in the future, and that’s why we’re starting to work with copper now,” stated Vollebak co-founder Steve Tidball.
Vollebak co-founder Nick Tidball added: “We wanted to see if it was possible to start making clothing built almost entirely out of copper. The Full Metal Jacket is our first iteration of copper clothing and proof of viability. While it might look like it’s come from another planet, it’s designed to be worn like a normal jacket. And it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing metal – the copper is woven into a flexible yarn and the jacket is fleece-lined, so it’s comfortable enough to be worn every day.”
The brothers admit that turning a metal into a wearable and high-performance fabric is a highly complex process. The first of the jacket’s three layers is made from a lacquered copper yarn. The lacquer is completely clear and acts as protection, so the color of each jacket is the color of the dyed copper beneath it. The face fabric is laminated with Schoeller’s c_change waterproof and breathable membrane engineered to respond to different weather conditions while retaining performance.
Once the metal face fabric and advanced membrane have been bonded together, an abrasion resistant polyamide backing is added. Over time, the fabric will wear like denim, with crease lines emerging and colors fading gradually to reveal the raw copper color.
The Full Metal Jacket has significant heft, and significant cost. But the brothers make a case for the use of copper explaining its functionality in an official statement that reports, “Copper is biostatic, which means that bacteria and other life forms will not grow on it. It also has exceptional antimicrobial properties with bacteria and viruses dying as they make contact with it: the copper releases electrically charged ions which first make it difficult for microbes to breathe, before punching holes in its outer membrane, moving in and completely wiping out its DNA, preventing it from developing any future resistance.”
Silver Goes to the Gym
Silver is a proven and trusted antimicrobial agent that is more accessible in terms of cost, than copper, and widely available, too. Silver is also the ingredient in FitShield, offered in Lutava’s new line of products targeting the boutique fitness market.
Lutava founder, Casey Chavez, explained that her patented FitShield technology “inhibits and kills 99 percent of bacteria and viruses within two hours.” The silver-based antimicrobial treatment is used in a Lutava Spin bike seat cover, a Grip bike handlebar cover and a Drive car seat slipcover. Described as a “clean fitness solution,” FitShield is engineered to combat the most common bacterial strains found in gyms -- including but not limited to Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus Aureus – in addition to viruses including Influenza A, Bird Flu, and Norovirus.
FitShield uses silver ions (Ag+) rather than silver particles, and according to the company, “the polymers adhere inherently to fiber surfaces, providing long lasting antimicrobial protection on fabrics. It is recyclable and reusable during processing applications due to its inherent UV stability and water solubility.”
Chavez explained the idea behind FitShield was to protect against cross contamination of germs, combined with a trend she identified in the premium sector the fitness market. “Unlike gyms, boutique fitness studios, don’t have showers – you just go for the class and leave wearing your workout apparel,” said Chavez, who recalls getting into her car after class wearing sweaty clothing and using a towel as a seat cover.
The Lutava product line is made from a layered stretch fabric with antimicrobial protection on both sides. “I focused on gym related bacteria initially,” said Chavez, “But during the COVID crisis with gyms closed I went back and re-engineered the technology for higher performance and viral efficacy and eliminate cross-contamination.”
Zeroing in on Zinc
Houston, TX-based Ascend Performance Materials has introduced Acteev Protect, a technology for a wide assortment of products including facemasks, apparel, upholstery and air filters.
“The current global scarcity of microbe-resistant materials is not going to end unless manufacturers are able to obtain the right media,” said Lu Zhang, Ph.D., Ascend’s vice president leading the Acteev launch. “We saw a way we could quickly meet those urgent needs with this innovative technology.”
Specifically, Acteev Protect combines zinc ion technology with polyamide-based woven, nonwoven and knit fabrics. The active zinc ions are embedded into the polymer matrix that is a long-lasting solution. According to the firm, the polyamide fabrics are durable yet soft to the skin, and the nonwoven filtration media – available as nanofibers, meltblown and spunbond – efficiently keep out unwanted particles.
“I think now with the pandemic, and going forward, consumers are more receptive to products with antimicrobial technology. It’s not a trend, its now a way of life,” — Casey Chavez, founder, Lutava
The embedded zinc in its ionic form is a powerful inhibitor of bacterial growth, according to Vikram Gopal, Ph.D., Ascend’s senior vice president of technology. “Zinc is an essential element needed for bacterial growth, so bacteria readily allows it inside the cell body. But the zinc ion outcompetes other essential elements such as manganese and magnesium and chokes their ingestion channels,” he said. “Without those minerals, the microbes can’t grow or reproduce.”
He added that zinc is labeled as “Generally Regarded as Safe,” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Polyamide 6,6 wovens and knits have considerable advantages over other types of nylons in garments and other textile applications, said Harrie Schoots, president-elect of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) and a senior business leader of Ascend’s textile business.
“This material resists abrasion and doesn’t pill or shed microfibers. It has a soft hand and excellent drape, and it can be dyed solid or bright colors,” Schoots said. “Uniforms or activewear made with Acteev Protect will be durable and comfortable and can be designed to match current color trends.”
Additionally, these features will last the lifetime of the garment. “Because the zinc ions are embedded during the polymerization process, knit and woven articles made with Acteev Protect stand up to 50 washes or more,” Schoots said.
Ascend is a fully integrated producer of polyamide 6,6 resins and also manufactures fibers and chemicals. Acteev Protect is the company’s first product offering available in ready-to-use fabric form factors.
A Holistic Approach
Consolidated Pathways, launched in 2019, was co-founded by Robert Monticello and Jim Krueger, who have worked in the antimicrobial space for decades in addition to serving on the board of the International Antimicrobial Council. With the company’s latest introduction, ProTecht, the execs usher in a new sustainably minded approach to antimicrobials, exemplified by the tagline: ProTecht Yourself, Your Community, Your Environment. Along with bringing different chemistries to mills, distributors, and brands, the Consolidated Pathways team also brings expertise in testing and technical services.
According to Monticello, the ProTecht system is based on the holistic approach that includes biocidal, non-biocidal and biobased approaches to controlling bacterial growth on a textile surface. ProTecht technologies offer an easy-to-apply liquid formulation and features compatibility with a broad range of textile additives and finishing treatments.
“What we bring is different chemistries to provide multiple benefits,” — Robert Monticello, co-founder, Consolidated Pathways
Additional advantages outlined by the company include performance features that can also be applied to natural, synthetic, blended and recycled fibers and fabrics, and do not impact the feel or aesthetic properties of the textiles.
The company prioritizes ProTecht eco-friendly properties and is mindful of the rigorous environmental impact of laundry. Because protective treatments for freshness and protection are inherently durable, these textiles require less frequent washes. The company states, “The added value of ProTecht reminds consumers to be environmentally conscious of their personal water and energy consumption. Similarly, it empowers consumers to continue to support and purchase eco-friendly products that deliver quality performance.”
Personal Safety & Public Spaces
Sanitized recently announced that tests conducted by independent laboratories have confirmed that several Sanitized products have an effectiveness against viruses on polymer surfaces.
Sanitized views its additives as the perfect tool for an antiviral and antibacterial treatment of different polymer types that can play a role not only in healthcare applications and technical applications but everyday necessities from mattress protectors to the food industry as well as public transportation.
Before any product’s antiviral properties can be claimed, viral tests must be performed of the treated articles in specialized laboratories. Compliance with local legal regulations is essential. Sanitized AG explicitly points out that this is a standard procedure and has composed a preliminary Sanitized Regulatory Guide: Placing antiviral and antimicrobial treated polymers on the market.
To advance transparency regarding responsible use of biocides, Sanitized also announced recently that it had its in-house Microbiology Lab in its TecCenter certified by the International Antimicrobial Council (IAC). The company’s TecCenter provides textile and polymer product manufacturers assistance and R&D support for their products. It supervises technical application aspects, and conducts microbiological tests and analytics.
“IAC Certification is an important building block for production chain transparency in the textile industry, which is demanded by a growing number of manufacturers and brands that are driven by end customer requirements.” — Erich Rohrbach, head of microbiology, Sanitized
With the IAC Certification, Sanitized AG now offers innovation expertise according to international standards that are also recognized and valued in the U.S. and Asia. Explained Erich Rohrbach, head of microbiology at Sanitized, “This is an important building block for production chain transparency in the textile industry, which is demanded by a growing number of manufacturers and brands that are driven by end customer requirements.”
Hygiene at Home
A recent collaboration with 1888 Mills and DuPont has produced a collection of home textiles that is currently offered at major retailers nationally. The Freshee product line of sheets and towels feature DuPont’s consumer brand Intellifresh, powered by the company’s Silvadur antimicrobial technology.
Silvadur uses a patented polymer technology to deliver silver ions via an “intelligent control” mechanism. The technology is particle free and readily water-dilutable, forming phase stable and solids-free finishing bath solutions for easy and rapid processing of fabric when used appropriately. Silvadur binds to bacterial DNA preventing replication, and binds with the cellular membrane causing structural and functional changes in the bacterial membranes leading to their inability to properly function.
Notable, too, is that Silvadur chemistry meets industry sustainability standards; it is bluesign approved and a bluesign System Partner, as well as registered to meet REACH requirements in the EU, and recognized and listed as an Active Chemical Product (with biological activity) certified by the Oeko-Tex Association.