Non-fluorinated Omniphobic Coatings for Stain Resistant Textiles

EPA Contract Number: EPD15029
Title: Non-fluorinated Omniphobic Coatings for Stain Resistant Textiles
Investigators: Hastbacka, Mildred
Small Business: TIAX, L.L.C.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016
Project Amount: $99,964
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Toxic Chemicals


TIAX proposes to demonstrate the feasibility of a textile treatment to create an omniphobic stain- resistant coating on textiles, without the use of fluorocarbon materials. This coating will be a hydrophobic, self-assembled mesoporous structure that is environmentally benign and will be applied using industry standard coating techniques, maintaining competitive production costs relative to other stain-resistant treatments. The use of a structured hydrophobic coating will create a very low energy surface that will repel both water and oil without the use of fluoropolymers.
Coatings to generate stain-resistant, self-cleaning and low friction surfaces have become increasingly important as a method of improving material and product performance. For example, stain-resistant fabrics, graffiti-resistant paints and nonstick surfaces dramatically improve durability and reduce maintenance requirements for a large number of items. The convenience and utility of stain resistant treatments, in particular, has come to be expected in a wide variety of products such as carpets, shirts, ties and sofas.
Currently, however, coatings and surfaces with these properties involve the use of fluoropolymers. In stain-resistant textiles, the combination of a fluoropolymer coating with the physical structure of the textiles results in an omniphobic surface that repels both polar and non-polar solvents; unfortunately, these fluoropolymers and their breakdown products and contaminants have been demonstrated to have significant health and environmental effects and many have been, or are being, phased out. Since these chemicals are most often used in stain-resistant treatments, TIAX’s solution addresses this recognized hazard in a significant and lucrative market, and will provide similar functionality at similar cost with ultimately benign breakdown products.
Given the anticipated performance, TIAX expects to address the same markets as the existing fluorocarbon treatments. The global textile market is expected to exceed $1.4 trillion by 2020. Of this, approximately $25 billion will be spent on textile chemicals, with finishing chemicals accounting for about 19 percent of that expenditure. Stain-resistant finishes are a substantial portion of that segment, indicating a significant business opportunity. Another promising market trend is that the majority of this textile market is in the European Union, United States, China and Japan. These are markets that have been most eager to adopt technologically advanced textiles and have been sophisticated consumers of wrinkle and stain resistant fabrics. These are also markets that have shown significant consumer concern over the harmful side effects of chemical treatments, both in the environment and in human health effects. These market drivers provide the vehicle for rapid adoption of a successful technology and interest by the textile industry in buying new and innovative technologies that overcome current or potential problems. Textile treatments with similar markets such as water repellence (e.g. Nanotex) have been rapidly acquired by commercial manufacturers was a way of increasing product range and versatility.
In TIAX’s proposed technology, the omniphobic behavior is generated through the use of a textured surface that prevents liquids from contacting the full surface of the textile. This method of creating omniphobic behavior has been studied extensively in lab and research settings, and has been able to mimic many of the properties of fluorinated surfaces. Few, however, have been sufficiently durable to survive the rigors of regular use or amenable to large scale production.
Our technology builds on this research, but will also improve the durability of the treatment and enable cost-effective application at scale using industry standard roll-to-roll processes.
By addressing out technology to the needs of the largest users of stain-resistant treatments, we can simultaneously effect the largest change to existing practices and potentially tap into the most lucrative market place. The common compounds used for stain-resistant treatments in the textile industry are perfluoroalkyls and, in particular, PFOA and PFOS were used up until quite recently. However, both PFOA and PFOS have been phased out due to the increasing evidence that bioaccumulation of the chemicals is significant and that in humans the compounds persist with a half-life of 3 years. This information, coupled with indications of carcinogenic effects of these chemicals lead to widespread recognition of the hazards posed by these chemicals. The compounds that have been introduced to replace PFOA are similar in chemistry; however, they have a shorter carbon chains (C4 instead of C8) that decreases their half-life in the human body to the time scale of months. Nonetheless, they are still environmentally persistent and will also accumulate over time. The best solution from an environmental perspective would be a material that breaks down into harmless byproducts. Our technology fits this requirement very well, because both it and its precursor chemicals have been shown to break down into ubiquitous and benign compounds. In enabling the elimination these fluorinated treatments we would address one of the largest sources of fluorocarbon pollution in the environment and a significant health hazard.
By providing the same functionality as a fluorinated stain resistant surface, the company ensures that TIAX has a product that has demonstrated market potential. This assurance is beneficial in adoption of the technology, since major commercial manufacturers can be confident of the reception of the product. Additionally, they can be assured that it will not require major changes to their current production line since the coating method is substantially similar to their current technology. And finally, TIAX will help dramatically reduce the use of one of the more hazardous and easily released fluorocarbons from a major manufacturing industry.

Supplemental Keywords:

textile coating, stain resistance, fluorocarbon, non-fluorinated omniphobic coatings, non-fluorinated surfaces or coatings, hydrophobic coatings, toxic chemicals

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report