Ascend utilises zinc for new antimicrobial technology - Just Style
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Ascend utilises zinc for new antimicrobial technology

By Beth Wright 16 Jun 2020

Ascend Performance Materials has developed a new technology designed to guard against the growth of mildew, fungi and other microbes to keep textiles and nonwoven fabrics fresher for longer.

Polyamide 66 resin producer Ascend Performance Materials has developed a new technology designed to guard against the growth of mildew, fungi and other microbes to keep textiles and nonwoven fabrics fresher for longer.

Acteev Protect, which uses zinc ion technology, has been in development for several years, but with the recent shortage of articles resistant to microbial growth, Ascend accelerated the product launch by partnering with independent labs for testing and reallocating resources to scale up production. 

Ascend’s vice president Lu Zhang says the technology is a “leap forward” in protection for apparel and face masks.

“Bacteria, mildew and other microbes growing on fabrics and filters cause the item to break down, discolour and give off unpleasant smells. Acteev Protect guards against that microbial growth, keeping the articles clean.”

Acteev Protect combines zinc ion technology with polyamide-based woven, nonwoven and knit fabrics. The active zinc ions are embedded into the polymer matrix, providing a long-lasting solution that does not wash away, unlike topical finishes or coatings. The polyamide fabrics are durable yet soft to the skin, and the nonwoven filtration media – available as nanofibres, meltblown, and spunbond – keep out unwanted particles.

“Zinc is an essential element needed for bacterial growth, so bacteria readily allows it inside the cell body. But the zinc ion outcompetes other essential elements such as manganese and magnesium and chokes their ingestion channels,” explains Vikram Gopal, Ascend’s senior vice president of technology. “Without those minerals, the microbes can’t grow or reproduce.”

Other products use silver as an antimicrobial, Dr Gopal adds, but that metal comes with unwanted environmental consequences. “Silver is typically used as a finish or a coating. That process is water-intensive, and the excess silver has to be disposed of, eventually ending up in our waterways.”

Zinc, however, is labelled Generally Regarded as Safe by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Additionally, the fabrics feature all the benefits of premium polyamides, which offer more comfort than polypropylene in single-use masks and allows knits and wovens to be dyed, printed on and laundered, according to Ascend.

Acteev Protect is Ascend’s first product offering available in ready-to-use fabric form factors. The company plans to extend the line in the coming months to include polyamide 66 fabrics for medical applications and engineered plastics for high-touch surfaces.