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Techtextil: Performance Textiles Take on More Advanced Traits

At a Techtextil symposium session Wednesday titled, “High Performance: Sports and Outdoor,” panelists discussed the ever-evolving world of performance textiles and what’s next for the sector.

Performance fabrics are made for a variety of end-use applications to provide functional qualities like abrasion resistance, cut resistance, cooling effects and thermo-regulation to name a few.

Carol Clemens of global science-based company DSM Dyneema, spoke on the panel and discussed the properties of Dyneema, touted as the world’s strongest fiber.

Dyneema is a brand for Ultra-high Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMwPE) that is lighter than water, quick-drying, 15 times stronger than steel and four times stronger than polyethylene terephthalate (PET), or polyester. Because of these properties, plus its high cut resistance, Dyneema is an ideal fiber for athletic clothing as the wearer will be well protected but not weighed down.

The fiber has already been used in technical cycling shorts for Olympic cycling teams as increased protection for crashes, but Clemens said DSM is working on more everyday uses for Dyneema.

“A popular place for performance fibers is in denim,” she said. “Because we wear it everywhere, we need it to do more things.”

DSM has started to develop protective denim clothing for various sports, like skateboarding, that incorporate performance elements while still maintaining the consumer’s ability to wear what they want to wear.

Reinforced cotton with 10 percent Dyneema has considerably higher breaking strength and tear resistance, Clemens said. In blends with Dyneema, performance can improve up to 70 percent compared to alternative single layer denim.

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“The performance you need out of fabrics today can really be achieved if you know where you need to be,” she said.

Today’s textile market is shifting toward extreme performance apparel, and making geotextiles, outdoor equipment, tenting and medical textiles with performance traits is a growing trend right now, Clemens said.

John Crocker, from textile testing firm SDL Atlas, who also spoke on the panel, said, “Performance textiles started off in athletic, but the realms of the market have changed dramatically.” Consumers now seek performance elements in fashion clothing, outdoor gear and across all textile markets, Crocker said.

“Performance textiles have moved into the realm of fashion clothing, outdoor and all markets of the textile lines.”

The next generation of performance textiles will include invisible sensors for clothing like T-shirts and underwear that can detect vitals like heart rate and body temperature, and act like an always-on doctor, Crocker explained.

In an article in the New Scientist last month, Stephane Marceau, CEO of Montreal-based biometric smartwear manufacturer OMsignal, said, “Wearable will go from looking at what happened to doing dynamic predictions and preventions — for example, predicting heart failure or seizures on a personal level, or predicting epidemics on a population level.”