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China's fabric industry rescued by algae blooms
Aug '10
Algal blooms that have blemished water bodies around China and nearly killed the 2008 Olympics, might soon find use for producing fibres for high-tech fabrics.

A Chinese firm is planning to produce extensively, fabrics that could be utilised in protective apparels worn by firefighters and medical persons, as early as next year, informed a company spokesperson.

Qingdao, a coastal city in East-China's Shandong Province, is where the factory has been built, with a designated yearly production capacity of 1,000 tons of fibre, made from alginate, a chemical salt that is removed from algae.

Qingdao University and Qingdao Xiyingmen Group have together invested for the plant and technologies. Qingdao Xiyingmen Group is one of China's leading textile firms, and along with the university has invested a net amount of 50 million yuan (US $73,529).

As per an official from Xiyingmen Group, the plant will process algae, remove the alginate fibre and manufacture fabrics. This environmentally-friendly fibre was initially discovered from varied species of algae at the national laboratory for new materials and textiles at Qingdao University. A senior researcher from the laboratory said that, the aforesaid was an important step towards new technology, which enables their fibres to be converted in to apparels.

The conventional alginate fibres were very fragile and hence were only utilised for manufacturing medical textiles, such as bandages. However, in 2007, the senior researcher and his team successfully extracted alginate from kelp. This new fibre from the new alginate proved rather strong, thereby leading to production of fabric, more durable than cotton.

More over, because the fibre is fire and electromagnetic waves proof, it can be used to manufacture special apparels, such as fire-proof gear for fire-fighters, medical uniforms and other protective apparels. The senior researcher went on to say that, this high-strength alginate fibre can also be procured from brown and green algae and some other destructive algae, which are otherwise believed to be harmful to marine ecology.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk - India

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