At the University of Alberta, Canada, researcher have solved the mystery of why a high-performance fabric commonly used in firefighting and other protective garments weakens prematurely when it’s exposed to moisture. They found that ‘Sulphur’ content in some high-performance fabrics weakens them when exposed to moisture.
“The breakthrough helps solve a big safety challenge. As the garment weakens over time, there’s no way to know whether the wearer is still protected or not. Now we know the root cause, and this gives information to the manufacturers to find a solution to this problem,” said Saiful Hoque, a PhD student in Textile and Apparel Science and researcher in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life, & Environmental Sciences.
The recent study investigated the accelerated hydrothermal aging of various fabrics typically used as outer shells in clothing for firefighters, oil and gas workers, and electricians, the University said in a press release. The fabrics were immersed in water at temperatures ranging from 60° to 95° C for up to 1,200 hours. After exposure, some of them lost significant tensile strength — the stress a fabric can withstand without splitting or breaking — without showing any visible signs of degradation.
This current findings shed new light on what earlier University of Alberta’s research discovered about the sensitivity of some high-performance fabrics to water, said ALES professor Patricia Dolez. She led earlier research that showed laundering contributes to a loss in performance in some fire-protective fabrics.
The study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.