Celanese, Under Armour Advance Toward Sustainable Stretch Fabrics With New Fiber Developed in NWI Labs
Celanese Corporation, a global specialty materials and chemical company, and Under Armour, Inc., a global leader in athletic apparel and footwear, have been engaged in a collaboration at The Nonwovens Institute (NWI) on the Centennial Campus of NC State University since 2022, resulting in a new fiber called NEOLAST™.
Utilizing NWI’s Fiber Spinning Lab, Celanese and Under Armour worked with the Institute’s fiber spinning experts over the course of two years to fine tune the production process for what they believe will be an innovative new alternative to elastane – an elastic fiber that gives apparel stretch, commonly called spandex. According to Celanese and Under Armour, this new fiber could unlock the potential for end-users to recycle performance stretch fabrics, a legacy issue that has yet to be solved in the pursuit of circular manufacturing with respect to stretch fabrics.
Celanese, as a Full Member of NWI, benefitted in this engagement by receiving priority access to NWI’s Fiber Spinning Lab as well as the expertise of NWI’s in-housed dedicated staff, who brought many years of experience in polymer and fiber science to the project.
“The introduction of recyclable NEOLAST™ fiber creates exciting opportunities for performance and sustainability benefits enabling customer success across the apparel value chain,” said Rick Tobar, Development Programs Manager, Celanese. “NWI was a critical partner in piloting the development of the fiber from its earliest stages through to a commercial product. The equipment and, more importantly, the expertise of NWI personnel were also key to bringing the fiber to reality.”
“NWI was a critical partner in piloting the development of the fiber from its earliest stages through to a commercial product. The equipment and, more importantly, the expertise of NWI personnel were also key to bringing the fiber to reality.” – Rick Tobar, Development Programs Manager, Celanese.
“NWI’s pilot facilities feature world-class technology and dedicated in-house expertise to support the research and product development needs of our members and industry partners,” said Behnam Pourdeyhimi, Ph.D., Executive Director, NWI. “We are honored that Celanese and Under Armour have chosen NWI to support their efforts in developing the NEOLAST™ fiber, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for this new technology.”
According to Celanese and Under Armour, NEOLAST™ fibers will be produced using recyclable elastoester polymers, a critical first step for the industry to address the challenge of recycling blended fabrics containing elastane. As end users transition to a more circular economy, Celanese and Under Armour are exploring the potential of the fibers to improve the compatibility of stretch fabrics with future recycling systems and infrastructure.
“NC State’s and Under Armour’s cultures are incredibly similar. We embrace the ‘think and do’ concept, while the university recognizes perfection is the enemy of innovation,” said Kyle Blakely, Senior Vice President, Innovation, Under Armour. “None of this would have been possible without the leaders at NC State asking for our feedback, hearing our feedback and moving to action as it relates to continuity and consistency of interaction across the entire campus. Once a path was cleared for the working groups – which happened efficiently – the project took off like a rocket ship. Now we have an iron-clad foundation to build on for many years to come. This is the first of many transformative innovations as a result of this partnership.”
“Working with a leading global brand like Under Armour to elevate the performance and sustainability benefits of their products is just the first of many great things we hope to accomplish with this innovative NEOLAST™ technology,” said Tom Kelly, Senior Vice President, Engineered Materials, Celanese. “Celanese is proud to bring its polymer expertise and technical know-how to help manufacture NEOLAST™ fibers for textiles and fabrics to meet the specific needs of our customers and other value-chain partners. We are just beginning to unlock its potential and look forward to what’s ahead as we explore other opportunities with end users.”
To read the full Cleanese/Under Armour announcement on the NEOLAST™ fiber, visit https://bit.ly/3OdZ1Lr.
As part of the Office of Research and Innovation at North Carolina State University, NWI is a membership-based fundamental research institute serving leading companies/organizations across the nonwovens value chain, from raw material to end-use. NWI research aims to enable strategic R&D efforts by member companies who are seeking to forge next-generation fiber- and polymer-based materials and products. At the end of this value-added research pipeline are revolutionary and often life-enhancing products for both industrial and consumer markets.
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For more information about Celanese, visit https://www.celanese.com/.
For more information about Under Armour, visit https://about.underarmour.com/.
For more information about NEOLAST™, visit www.neolastfibers.com.