New microfibre research highlights complexity of fibre fragmentation

The Microfibre Consortium (TMC) has shared preliminary results from the first phase of its product development research and testing programme with its membership. At a recent forum, TMC updated members from around the world ahead of the next stage of the project. During the event, the consortium and its research partner the University of Leeds (UoL), presented data which confirms that the topic of fibre fragmentation is complex and, contrary to the findings of earlier research papers, is not purely related to fibre composition, but the interconnection of all elements of the textile make up.

The new research is part of a comprehensive programme of work being undertaken by The Microfibre Consortium, the University of Leeds and other global research members, on behalf of consortium members and stakeholders. In November 2019, TMC and UoL unveiled the world’s first thoroughly tested, validated and internationally aligned method for measuring microfibre material loss from textiles. TMC also revealed details of the next phase of its wider work. This included funding a full-time research technician in order to support efforts to build a database of understanding about the impact of different fibres, yarns, fabric constructions and process steps with regard to fibre shedding at the material level. The first outputs from that work were presented to 31 TMC members, representing global brands, retailers, research organisations and supply chain partners at the forum in March. The event was hosted by the consortium, with technical content provided by UoL.

Dr Mark Sumner of the University of Leeds explains: “With the support of the TMC and their members we have been able to develop a reliable and robust method to quantify fibre fragmentation from textile fabrics. Using this method, we have been able to demonstrate that fragmentation is a complex process that is affected by materials, fibres, yarn structure, fabric structure and finishing processes. Simple statements that one fabric type is worse than another ignore this complexity and mislead product development teams. For example, when testing two fabrics which appear to be the same, in that they are both knitted filament polyester, Fabric B had over 30 times more fibre fragmentation than Fabric A (image below). There is much more work needed to fully understand how fabric material and structural factors influence fragmentation, but TMC is leading the charge in unpicking this complexity.”

Sophie Mather, managing director of The Microfibre Consortium, adds: “This latest research is another important sign of progress in our project. We have already developed a robust test method for measuring fibre fragmentation loss (previously referred to as microfibre loss) and we now have a developing body of understanding of the contributing factors from a diverse range of material types and processes. This will inform the next stage of the work that we are doing with the University of Leeds and our other global research partners. All of this moves us closer to developing practical solutions that will help the textile industry minimise fibre fragmentation and release into the environment during the production and full life cycle of garments.”

Founded in November 2018, The Microfibre Consortium now has 40 members from across the outdoor sector, sports, high street, luxury fashion and home textiles, with a combined turnover of over €250 billion. TMC also has research and affiliate members from around the world, boosting the consortium’s growing international scope to support greater global topic alignment and collaboration and research understanding.

Organisations that would like to discuss joining The Microfibre Consortium should contact findoutmore@microfibreconsortium.com. To find out more about the consortium, visit www.microfibreconsortium.com.