Scientists at the North Carolina State University have discovered a new way of providing greater durability on the flame retardant and antibacterial qualities of apparel used for protective clothing.

Traditional protective apparel is coated with the protective polymers but these can wear thin and lose their effectiveness due to repeated washing. Researchers at the University have found that imbedding the polymers used in creating the fabric itself with the protective additives can withstand repeated washing.

The process involves making up an inclusion compound made up of cyclodextrins and cyclic starch molecules with interlocking glucose sugar rings. The cyclodextrins have a hollow centre ring and so can be stacked on top of each other forming a hollow tube into which the additives can be imbedded.

Once the inclusion compound has been made the crystalline structure is melt-pressed into a polyester film. Tests done by the university have shown a significant increase in the flame retardancy of polyester films created this way.

Dr Alan Tonelli, KoSa professor of polymer science at NC State's College of Textiles and leader of the research team, said: "We were convinced, just based on these results, that this is much better, much more effective and should provide longer lasting protection,"

The team are also looking at ways of using the cyclodextrin compound in a laminating process on various fabrics. The cyclodextrin impound with the antibacterial additives is ground into a powder, mixed with a polymer powder and then sprinkled on to the fabric. A second layer of fabric is then placed on top and exposed to heat and pressure.

Dr. Tonelli said: "In our experience the lamination route seems to be very, very favourable, just by virtue of how it's done.

"It ought to make the fabrics antibacterial, it ought to do a nice job in flame retardancy, it might be good for who knows what else, and the additives don't necessarily have to be released from the embedded cyclodextrin inclusion compound crystals."