Rethinking Technical Materials at RISE 2022

Over 20 industry experts will present their views on how materials science innovations can create a more sustainable future for the nonwovens industry at INDA 12e Research, Innovation and Science for Engineered Fabrics (RISE) conference, taking place September 27-28 at North Carolina State University.

RISE will focus on redesigning, reusing and recycling nonwovens and engineered materials – from responsible sourcing of nonwovens inputs to developing realistic end-of-life options and circularity.


Among the keynote speakers, Kat Knauer, from US Research, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will explain the objectives of BOTTLE – Bio-optimized technologies to keep thermoplastics out of landfills and the environment – a multi-organization US Department of Energy consortium developing new strategies for recycling today’s plastics to achieve a circular supply chain.

BOTTLE conducts research using techno-economic and life cycle analysis to identify optimal solutions and aiming to redefine circularity by implementing upcycling paradigms. The aim is to break down the walls between mechanical, chemical and biological processes and combine innovations to achieve the most efficient and economical routes for waste management, and also to rethink plastics with built-in recyclability.

Behnam Pourdeyhimi, Executive Director of the Nonwovens Institute at North Carolina State University, will present the opportunities for new materials based on PLA and blends of PLA with other biopolymers and will also highlight the practical aspects of fiber extrusion by highlighting the focus on filament extrusion and spunbonding.

Southeast Nonwovens (SENW), based in Clover, South Carolina, has worked extensively with hemp and cotton-based nonwovens and at RISE, the company’s director of research and development, Paul Latten , will explore the use of other natural fibers as potential raw materials.

The company has worked on wet laying and carding of banana, bagasse, sisal, seaweed, coconut, pineapple and flax and the main problems and opportunities for them as ingredients in durable nonwovens will be described.

Olaf Isele, Director of Strategic Product Development at Trace Femcare, will also detail his company’s work with hemp as a fiber for absorbent hygiene products.


Doug Hinchliffe, a molecular biology researcher at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in New Orleans, will detail work on expanding the use of cotton in nonwovens through the development of new products, processes and applications. and improved.

His team is exploring several approaches to mitigate the depletion of quats – quaternary ammonium compounds – from bulk solution onto cellulosic materials.

Quats are cationic surfactants widely used as an active antimicrobial ingredient for disposable disinfectant wipes. The cationic nature of quats results in strong electrostatic interaction and strong adsorption on wipe materials that have an anionic surface charge, such as cotton and other cellulosic materials. This can effectively deplete the quats from the bulk solution and reduce their deposition on a hard surface, thereby reducing antimicrobial effectiveness.

Quat co-formulations that minimize electrostatic interactions, surface modifications that result in cationic cellulosic substrates, and reduction of substrate surface area using coarse staple fibers are all being researched and preliminary results from Efficacy tests required for EPA registration of disposable disinfectant wipes will be discussed.


Fiber and tape finishes to improve both product processing and performance will be presented by Kay McCoy, Technical Sales Representative for Pulcra Chemicals.

Finishes are typically applied at a level below 1% by weight of the fiber and can be tailored for specific functions such as hydrophilic and hydrophobic characteristics, wicking, soft feel, skin health and durability. disinfectant interaction.

Parameters that can be varied to develop the optimum finish for end product performance will be explained to provide a working knowledge of finish development as a benchmark for new product development projects and the difference in finish requirements for natural fibers compared to synthetics will also be detailed. .

Finish development is also significantly driven by regulatory requirements and some of the considerations in the formulation of the finish and the development of renewable finishing components will also be discussed.


Matthew Becker of Duke University will describe work on stereochemistry to cure sugar-based polymers and degradable elastomers.

Stereochemistry in polymers can be used as an effective tool to control the mechanical and physical properties of the resulting materials. Typically, in synthetic polymers, differences between polymer stereoisomers result in incremental property variation, such as no change in basic plastic or elastic behavior.

Stereochemical differences in sugar-based monomers yield a family of non-segmented alternating polyurethanes that can be either strong amorphous thermoplastic elastomers with properties that exceed most cross-linked rubbers, or tough semi-crystalline thermoplastics with properties comparable to commercial plastics.

Stereochemical differences in monomers direct distinct intra- and interchain supramolecular hydrogen bonding interactions in bulk materials to define their behavior. The chemical similarity between these isohexide-based polymers allows for both random copolymerization and blending, which each allow independent control over degradability and mechanical properties. The modular molecular design of polymers offers the possibility of creating a family of materials with divergent properties that possess inherent degradability and exceptional mechanical performance.


The Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD) has been a wake-up call for the nonwovens industry in several ways, according to Bryan Haynes, senior technical director of global nonwovens at Kimberly-Clark.

“First, the industry was not sufficiently prepared to prove the benefits of bioplastics over biodegradability and microplastics and second, many potential solutions, including circularity, are longer term in nature, but we have need solutions now,” he said.

Her article will provide an update on Kimberly-Clark’s sustainability journey and break down some of the issues that need immediate solutions.


Over the past two decades, researchers around the world have attempted to develop thermoplastic starch for many applications, but have been hampered by difficulties including low mechanical strength, according to Steven Sherman, CEO of BioLogiQ, Inc.

BioLogiQ researchers have developed a proprietary thermal gelatinization process in the presence of plasticizers, through which a low-cost thermoplastic starch material with superior mechanical properties can be manufactured, in the form of granules. The starch granules, while fragile in nature, are 100% bio-based and can be easily blended with fossil fuel-based partner resins or with biopolymers to create what the company calls BioBlends. Items made using these BioBlends exhibit similar or superior mechanical properties when compared to items made with 100% resins.

More interestingly, in many cases, applications using these BioBlends exhibit attractive biodegradation properties without fragmentation, resulting in significant reduction of microplastics and complete biodegradation of starch and partner resin. BioLogiQ researchers are also actively working on the use of these BioBlends made from PP and starch in nonwoven applications, providing a pathway for biocontent, microplastic reduction and biodegradation. Some salient features of BioBlends, mechanical properties of films made using them, and results of biodegradation studies will be presented.

Heidi Beatty, CEO of Crown Abbey will present an alternative source of cellulosic raw material, not from trees, but from the fermentation of by-products and agricultural waste. She will also discuss some of the properties of this “microbial cellulose” and the regenerated cellulosic fibers derived from it.


Reviewing the markets, economist Robert Fry will provide his outlook on the global economy, with a focus on the United States and what leading indicators are telling us about the near-term risks of a US recession. Topics include gross domestic product, industrial production, labor markets, housing starts, vehicle sales, inflation and interest rates.

Brad Kalil, INDA’s Director of Market Intelligence and Economic Outlook, will discuss in more detail the changes in the demand and supply market as the North American nonwovens industry has responded, and is still reacting, to the Covid-19 crisis. Specifically, the presentation will present a pre-pandemic view of the nonwovens markets, the current state and a look into the future. Future prospects will take into account both demand possibilities and supply responses, in particular new capacities to overcome shortages in certain markets.

Over the past five years, 115 lines have started up in North America. Going forward, there has been a significant amount of investment in nonwovens publicly announced. In a typical year, less than $100 million is publicly announced. During the 2020-2021 period, $278 million was announced and during the 2022-23 period, $611 million was publicly announced. The implications of this will be fully explored.

The event will also include the presentation of the RISE Innovation Award, a special opportunity to tour the Nonwovens Institute’s state-of-the-art facility with advance registration required, and poster presentations by graduate students from North Carolina State University.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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