Fabrics consist of fibers categorized as either natural, synthetic or a blend of both. Each type, whether natural or synthetic, possesses distinct advantages and drawbacks in terms of appearance, durability, feel, and tactile qualities. Natural fibers originate from plants and animals. whereas synthetic fibers are produced from man-made chemical compounds such as petroleum, and each is valued in the textile industry for different reasons.
Natural fibers encompass materials such as wool, cashmere, cotton, linen, silk, and others. Manufacturers spin these fibers into threads and yarns, which are subsequently woven or knitted into natural fabrics. Although these fibers originate from plants and animals, their availability is predominantly subject to the seasonal cycles of growth, harvests, and uncertainties arising from the natural environment. For instance, fiber crops are typically harvested only once a year, which can result in storage and sourcing challenges when harvests are affected by drought, flooding, pests, or other external factors.
Synthetic fibers include materials like polyester, spandex, nylon, rayon, acrylic, and more – created via chemical processes in a laboratory. The textile industry began creating synthetic fibers as cheaper and more easily mass-produced alternatives to natural fibers, beginning with nylon. Nylon was created in 1935 by petrochemical company, DuPont.
The chemicals used to make synthetic fibers are often from fossil-fuel-derived resources, including petroleum-based chemicals and petrochemicals. Synthetics can be manufactured with a multitude of advanced properties, including greater elasticity, water resistance, and improved stain-resistance over natural fibers.
Recently, a movement to reduce a reliance on fossil-based fibers has taken root. Some newer fibers that have begun to be created called semi-synthetic fibers, using natural materials, like cellulose-based Rayon. Semi-synthetic fibers are based on natural materials and then treated chemically to produce fabric. KERTEX is a response to this movement as well, with our team working to develop materials that have less of an impact on humans and ecosystems than synthetics.
KERTEX is a novel, and sustainable bio-based alternative to currently available synthetic and natural fibers. At scale, it will reduce global reliance on synthetic, petroleum-based materials while mitigating the drawbacks associated with natural fiber materials. The production of KERTEX is more sustainable than synthetic textiles like polyester in terms of carbon footprint, delivering a roughly 50% savings in production process emissions. It also provides significant environmental, technical, and process advantages, including significantly reduced water use and energy consumption when compared to natural fiber growing and harvesting, and decreased chemical use when compared to synthetic fiber manufacturing.