Pure nature: 100% biobased (BB100)

The main goal of the BB100 project is the development of a process chain towards fully bio-based man-made fibre materials. This does not only include the mere processing of biopolymers, but also commonly used additive materials like plasticizers, flame-retardants, colorants and nucleation agents. Fully bio-based yarns and textile demonstrators will be developed.

Both Flanders and the South of Netherlands traditionally have a large number of companies that are active in the plastics processing industry, particularly in the field of textiles: Both regions hold extensive expertise in the development and production of carpet and clothing. By 2030, the textile sector aims to use between 20% to 50% biobased materials in its products. In order to realize this, it is necessary for the textile industry to obtain high-quality fibres and yarns based on 100% biobased materials.

Figure 1: Staple fiber production of PLA (left); producing of sliver for OE-spinning (right)

The project ‘Puur natuur: 100% biobased’ aims to provide sustainable, non-toxic, and biodegradable alternatives based on renewable raw materials. This project is a collaboration between Maastricht University, Avans University of Applied Science, Centexbel, HZ University of Applied Sciences and the industry partners IFG Exelto NV and Stichting Texperium. The project results in the development of fully biobased plasticizers, flame-retardants, dyes, stabilizers, adhesives, and nucleating agents. For example, in textiles, colour intensity and stability are the most important quality indicators. However, biobased dyes are commercially available to a limited extent and often do not meet quality criteria such as colourfastness.

Figure 2: PLA fabric coated with biobased flame retardant (left) and without coating (middle) after the burning test (right)

One workgroup of this project for example focuses on developing natural dyes from marine organisms (such as algae) and agricultural crops which (amongst others) contain sorghum and onion peels. The developed colour combinations will be tested in the laboratory for different processes as injection moulding (test specimen), extrusion (melt-spinning of multifilament fibres), coating, finishing and bath-dyeing.

Figure 3: On the right PLA fabric dyed with indigo and exposed to UV-light for light fastening testing. On the left cotton dyed with tannic acid, an ocher yellow dye.

The specimen with various combinations of additives of each workgroup are analysed and an evaluation will be made to identify the most suitable technology to develop fully (100%) biobased textile products in large scale. In addition, these processes are being up-scaled to a pilot scale to allow various companies i.e. to develop fully biobased tufted carpets, woven fabrics, knitwear, clothing and bedding. The project reached the realisation phase and the following companies are working on suitable biobased demonstrators from their standard products: tuft cloth (IFG Exelto NV), OE-spun yarns from PLA staple fibre(Stichting Texperium), knitted clothing like aprons and scarves (Huisman Tricot BV), textile composites (Weverij Flipts & Dobbels NV) and wall coverings with PLA ink on woven fabrics (Masureel int.).

Figure 4: PLA ink printed on woven fabric.

Lastly, the biobased raw materials, chemical procedures, produced intermediates and subsequent production processes are examined for their environmental impact in the various development stages by means of a life cycle assessment (LCA).