FRANKFURT - Speciality viscose fibre manufacturer Kelheim Fibres has won the Techtextil Award in the "New Concept" category for their project "Cellulose-based nonwovens for highly absorbent reusable products".

This award is intended to make cutting-edge developments visible, promote unconventional thinking and intensify the dialogue between researchers, manufacturers, and users - and, says Kelheim, therefore exactly matches the philosophy of the fibre specialist.

"It is a great honour and pleasure for us to receive the Techtextil Award," said Dr. Marina Crnoja-Cosic, director New Business Development at Kelheim Fibres. "We see the award not only as an acknowledgement for the project presented, but also as a recognition of our innovation strategy. Our open innovation concept aims at dialogue and the associated acceleration of the commercialisation of innovative solutions. In this specific example, it has been shown that together with our partners, the Saxony Textile Research Institute STFI and Sumo, we have been able to react faster and more specifically to current trends. Together we achieved a better result. By joining forces, we have developed a product that optimally combines performance and sustainability."

The starting point for the innovation was the search for a washable and therefore reusable absorbent pad made of completely bio-based materials for the cloth diaper of the Berlin-based start-up Sumo.

Two main requirements of the application were clear; a fast and efficient liquid distribution and high absorbency should minimise rewetting and leakage. Both are ensured by speciality viscose fibres from Kelheim, which have been making this essential contribution to absorbent hygiene products such as tampons for many years.

For Kelheim, the obvious solution was therefore to optimally utilise the synergies between knitted and woven structures with nonwovens.

In doing so, the advantages of nonwovens in combination with speciality viscose fibres in terms of absorbency (through e.g. more open-pored structures) have been perfectly transferred from the field of disposable to the world of reusable products.

For reusable products, however, there is another challenge to overcome: they must remain stable during washing and over several cycles of use. To ensure this, an innovative nonwoven construction was developed in close cooperation with the STFI. These nonwovens can be used as a stand-alone solution or integrated into a textile structure.

In the Sumo cloth diaper, the liquid management of the absorbent pad sets new standards. The new solution combines the worlds of nonwovens and textiles and provides proof that high-performance reusable absorbent products can be developed without fossil materials.

All of the company's fibres, which are used a range of diverse applications from fashion, hygiene and medical products to nonwovens and speciality papers, are made from 100% wood pulp from PEFC or FSC certified sources. They are fully biodegradable and offer an environmentally sound alternative to petroleum-based materials in a broad range of different end products – while maintaining or even enhancing the functional performance of the product.

Production takes place exclusively in Germany and complies with the strict German environmental legislation. Kelheim Fibres is the first viscose manufacturer worldwide with an EMAS-validated environmental management system.

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