The Bavarian viscose fibre specialist Kelheim Fibres has developed the first viscose fibre with intrinsic water repellent properties; the fibre has been named Olea.
In contrast to other methods of creating hydrophobic properties, Kelheim has been able to maintain the typical properties of the viscose fibre by incorporating the hydrophobicity in the fibre matrix itself.
Thanks to incorporation of the additive during the spinning process, the hydrophobic effect is durable and cannot be washed out.
The additive used for the production of Olea fibre is made of renewable materials, like the fibre itself, and so Olea is a fully biodegradable fibre.
While viscose fibres are usually known for their excellent liquid absorption capacity, there are also numerous applications which can benefit from Kelheim's hydrophobic Olea fibre.
"Olea is an environmentally friendly alternative for the cover- and back-sheets of hygiene products - for example nappies, sanitary towels or incontinence pads: In order to protect the wearer's skin, these sheets need to remain dry while they facilitate the transport of liquid away from the skin", explains Dr. Philipp Wimmer from Kelheim's R&D team. "Beyond that, our Olea fibre offers advantages for both, wearer and environment: the former benefits from the comfort, skin-friendliness and extra softness of our viscose fibre, the latter from the fact, that Olea enables the production of functional nonwovens made of 100% viscose fibres - which are therefore completely biodegradable."
In addition Olea fibres are suitable for demanding hygiene and food applications as the additive is FDA approved.
Kelheim's range of viscose specialities now covers the two poles of absorbency performance - from the hydrophobic Olea fibre to viscose fibres with water retention up to more than 400% - and so offers a comprehensive choice for the nonwovens industry.
At the same time, Kelheim Fibres is testing Olea for textile applications. The unique combination of hydrophobic properties and the typical excellent moisture management and wearer comfort of viscose fibres are very promising, especially for sportswear and other functional textile applications.