Natural Fiber Welding

From left to right, SEM image of raw cotton and Natural Fiber Welding’s CLARUS® cotton. COURTESY OF NATURAL FIBER WELDING

We look forward to hearing more as they progress:

This Company Has a Way to Replace Plastic in Clothing

Natural Fiber Welding uses an innovative process to treat cotton and make it behave more like synthetic fibers.

LUKE HAVERHALS WANTS to change how yoga pants are made. Most performance fabrics used in athletic clothing, like Spandex, are made from synthetic fibers—plastic, essentially. Those plastics are problematic for humans and the environment. Haverhals’ company, Natural Fiber Welding, offers an alternative to synthetic fabrics.

NFW makes a performance cotton textile called Clarus that can be used for clothing. The fabric is made from cotton that has been treated to partially break down the organic material and leave it stronger and denser. The result is cotton yarn that behaves more like synthetic fibers.

When asked if his company is a tech company or a textiles company, Haverhals responds without hesitation. “We’re a tech company … but our first focus is textiles.”

Haverhals has a PhD in chemistry and began his career teaching at the Naval Academy in 2008. While there, he worked with a team of chemists and materials scientists researching ionic liquids, which are essentially melted salts. These salts usually remain liquid at room temperature and can be used as solvents for breaking down biomass, things like cotton and cellulose. In 2009, with funding from the Air Force’s Office of Scientific Research, the team realized a significant breakthrough in strengthening natural fibers using ionic liquids.

The team asked what might happen if they partially broke down natural fibers and then welded or fused them together. The result is a kind of monofilament cotton. While the original fibers might be only a few centimeters long, the partially dissolved and fused fibers can be made much longer. This creates a stronger yarn that mimics the performance characteristics of synthetic fibers…

Read the whole article here.

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