The main purpose of the TEX-SHIELD project is to address the problems associated with textile protection by:

  1. Eliminating problems with C8 PFCs' by-products associated with textile treatments.
  2. Providing a cost-effective alternative treatment which allows textiles to be provided with durable anti-soiling/anti-staining characteristics.
  3. Reducing the total fluorine content in the treatment by means of new sol-gel derived additives in the form of nanoparticles or inorganic-organic hybrid networks.
  4. Demonstrating performance on a representative scale, with regards to key technical parameters including soil resistance, abrasion resistance, cleaning cycle resistance.
  5. Creating additional advantageous functions such as anti-static and anti-microbial characteristics to improve stability against mechanical, chemical impacts.
  6. Developing flexible and versatile solutions for a broad range of textile supports different in structure (woven, knitted) and basic fibres (natural, synthetic or mixtures).
  7. Developing a solution with a low ecological footprint, based on REACH-proof chemicals and taking in to account safety and health issues.
  8. Providing a full Life Cycle Analysis (including washability cycle) and assessment of techno-economic benefits, via benchmarking against current products.
  9. Providing the necessary technological transfer and training via SME associations to ensure awareness and take up throughout the EC.

The delivery of the necessary high durability stain-repellent performance to match that currently available on the market requires overcoming a number of technical challenges. The first significant challenge is the identification and development of a suitable molecular structure which incorporates both low surface energy properties (hydrophobic/oleophobic) and suitable binding groups to facilitate chemical bonding to the fibre surface to promote durability. Whilst it is desirable that the former property should be achieved without the use of fluorination, it is expected that a significant reduction in fluorine content both by amount of fluorinated agent and by the fluorine content of the agent will provide an expedient intermediate route to the ultimate elimination of fluorine. Alternatives to be explored will be hydrocarbon chains that contain a small number of carbon atoms in their backbone such as C2 and C4. The low surface energy aspect can therefore be provided by short chain PFCs or hydrocarbons that are long or short chain. The actual performance will be dictated in detail by the selection. Binding these low energy groups to the textile can be achieved by the use of suitable cross-linking agents that are widely known. These include amine, epoxy and isocyanate groups.

The second challenge for the development of the treatment will be to incorporate these cross-linking groups with the low energy groups to form a nanoscale building block prior to application on the textile. The development of such building blocks is the central aim of solgel technology, which chemically manipulates functional silanes to produce the required nanostructure.

The third challenge to be faced is the impregnation/deposition technique, in order to produce a suitable layer on the surface of the fabric without excessive loading which could alter the 'feel' of the material, with regard to weight or stiffness. It is also desirable to use the minimum loading possible for cost and environmental reasons. It is expected that a spray, print or immersion process will be required, with varying parameters of loading, dispersion and curing in order to optimise against the above properties. The development of the above materials and corresponding deposition process requires detailed characterisation and analysis based on in-depth understanding in the field. This is a significant technical challenge, since these materials are structurally complex. One particular advantage of the PFC-C8 treatments over its current alternatives is that they result in a very thin film covering each filament and fibre in the textile. This thin film has little effect on the stiffness or feel of the textile, but a significant impact on the functional characteristics.