More and more textile enterprises are optimizing their corporate social responsibility (CSR) codes by producing green textiles

Among other chemical companies, DuPont is one providing an example of a successful CSR firm. It used to rely heavily on fossil fuels to make paint, plastics and polymers. In the 1990s, renowned for its R&D that created products such as nylon, the company decided to spend billions of dollars on developing safe, environmentally friendly products. It has since cut greenhouse gas emissions by 72% and air carcinogen emissions by 92% at its facilities worldwide, according to Dawn Rittenhouse, DuPont's director of sustainable development.

The company vowed to make US$2 billion a year in revenue by 2015 from 1,000 products that would save energy and reduce pollutants. "What's good for business," Rittenhouse said, "must also be good for the environment and for people worldwide."

For those who are reluctant to change, the pressure from the public is growing as more retailers are responding to a rising demand for eco-friendly textile and apparel goods from environmentally conscious manufacturers.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, recently announced that it would soon expect its suppliers to utilize eco-friendly processing on products ticketed for its shelves. This proclamation would undoubtedly have a tremendous effect on the way future textile products were manufactured.

There is considerable work currently being done in the area of eco-processing. Dr Fred Cook, professor and former director of the School of Polymer, Textile & Fiber Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga. Tech) and member of the operating board of the National Textile Center, suggested that the key for the eco-friendly processing in the chemical and auxiliary industry was the elimination of organic solvents. Other initiatives include the elimination of chemicals altogether.

Some efforts are being made to eliminate water, utilizing liquid C02 as the medium to carry dyes, pigments and more.

Dr Cook said research was currently underway at Ga. Tech with "nano dots." These extremely small metal particles are about 1 0-9 m in size, which makes the particles about the size of visible light. If the particles are of the same size as the blue rays, they would reflect yellow. When these particles are embedded in fiber, the resulting fabric becomes a color to the eye, without any use of dyes or pigments. By manipulating the size of these dots, researchers can then create virtually any color fabric.

Ga. Tech has discovered that nano-sized scales on the wings of butterflies also cause a reflection of light in certain colors. By emulating this technology and etching nano-sized grooves in the fabric, researchers have been able to provide colorful fabrics with no dyes or pigments.

Researches for organic processing

Dr Martin Jacobs, Executive Director of the US National Textile Center (NTC), discusses some of the eco-friendly processing research underway at NTC. The NTC is a research consortium of eight US universities: Auburn University, Clemson University, Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University and Philadelphia University. It serves the US industries of fiber technology, textiles and retailing.

The NTC has been investigating organic liquids for fiber extrusion under the direction of Dr Roy Broughton of Auburn Engineering. Dr Broughton suggests that cellulose fibers are the most plentiful polymeric fibers in nature. Most cellulose fibers, however, are not long enough to make a fabric. Regenerating cellulose fibers including viscose rayon, cuprammonium rayon, cellulose acetate rayon and Iyocell can solve the length limitation of celluloses.

Especially, N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide (NMMO) is fulfilling as a good solvent for newly developed regenerated cellulose fiber, Iyocell except solvent stability and recovery.

Applications for the anti-microbial properties on fabrics are diverse. Coating treatment with anti-bacterial chemical is referred as the mainstream of the anti-bacterial finishing. Due to the relatively low durability of surface treatments, coating of the surfaces is not the most desirable treatment. Other anti-microbials are more toxic or less effective than the halamines under investigation in laboratories.