Zephlinear is the first non-woven material made from yarn

Zephlinear is the first non-woven material made from yarn

UK researchers are developing a new form of sustainable fabric, claimed to be the first non-woven material made from yarn, which they say could be incorporated into antibacterial and aromatic clothing.

According to a team at Nottingham Trent University, the 'space cloth' has strong potential for use as a smart textile due to its unique structure with space to encase copper wiring and light emitting diodes (LEDs). Scientifically named Zephlinear, the new fabric is made by a newly-established technique known as yarn surface entanglement. Traditionally, woven or knitted materials are made by the interloping or interlacing of yarns.

While the exact process is under wraps for IP purposes, the team explained to just-style how the finest hair or fibre can entangle to a capacity that it locks together to an irreversible extent. The manufacturing process to create Zephlinear uses this characteristic to entangle only the yarn surface fibre. The extent of the entanglement is only visible under a microscope but can produce a fabric structure of incredible strength in contradiction to what is visible to the naked eye.

Invented by UK designer and researcher Sonia Reynolds, the fabric is currently in the hands of the university's Advanced Textile Research Group who are working with Reynolds on her PhD in the subject to further develop the fabric's novel manufacturing process.

"This is a real breakthrough for the textiles industry," says Reynolds. "Because of the material's linear channels of yarn, it has great potential to be used as a smart textile. In particular, we believe it lends itself well to being embedded with microcapsules containing medication or scent, to either help deliver drugs to specific parts of the body or to create antibacterial and aromatic clothing."

In addition Reynolds adds Zephlinear, which derives from the merger of two words, zephyr and linear, has the potential to be used for other applications such as wall coverings, in addition to clothing.

"And because it's much less labour intensive to make than knit or weave fabrics, it's a more environmentally friendly material to produce as well," she explains.

According to the researchers, Zephlinear is strongest and most efficient when created from natural yarns such as 100% wool, hair and wool/silk mixtures, although it can also be made from synthetic yarns.

Professor Tilak Dias, who leads the university's Advanced Textiles Research Group, adds Zephlinear has huge potential for textiles and combines well with e-textile technologies such as heated textiles or textiles with embedded LEDs.

"Zephlinear is a remarkable development in an industry which is advancing at an incredible pace," explains Dias. "As a fabric it is very lightweight and flexible, and it retracts back to its original shape well after it has been stretched. We're very much looking forward to developing the material further and feel certain that it will help provide people with smarter and more environmentally friendly clothing in the future."

The material, which is patent pending, was recently presented at the Wearable Technology Show in the US.