The increasing popularity of adventure and endurance sports and outdoor leisure activities is opening up new markets for polyester fabric manufacturer Toray Textiles. The company has identified that greater awareness of the need to avoid over-exposure of strong sun is pushing trekkers and travellers to search for specialist clothing that provides the added benefit of protection from the sun.

"Modern polyester fabrics are proven to be the best all-round performer especially when it comes to providing protection against the sun," claims Jo Cooke, Toray's outdoor clothing specialist.

Toray recently submitted seven fabric samples to the National Radiological Protection Board for testing to establish their Clothing Protection Factors (CPF). The samples were tested by the NRPB to British Standard 7914: 1998 2 and achieved the Board's protection category rating of "very high". To achieve this category, each fabric must be given a CPF value of greater than 30.

Each of the Toray fabric samples submitted achieved a rating of between 100 and 200 CPF ― many times the accepted value ― indicating minimal actual penetration by ultra violet radiation of between 0.005 and 0.01 per cent.

"Of course there are many factors to be considered such as weight, colour, fibre type, openness of the weave, thickness and yarn," says Jo, "but this is the first testing procedure that has tried to take all these factors into account and has come up with some very clear conclusions ― polyester gives the best protection against the sun!"

Toray's own research led it to the same conclusion, but until recently it was difficult to substantiate independently. "Now, however, we are really making use of the results of the latest research," says Jo, who is part of the company's recently formed team to develop new market and sales opportunities.

"We have examined and are re-engineering our products at every stage of the production process where we see new market potential for a fabric. This scrutiny starts with yarn selection and goes through to the durability of finishes, new colour ranges and colour fastness; all are now under the microscope," explains Jo. "Activity clothing manufacturers and retailers are often looking for different colour ranges and finishes to other sectors."

Jo also expects to see major high street retailers showing similar interest when consumers aspiring to performance clothing but at a lower price point also take to the trend ― as she is convinced they will.