In an era of heightened environmental consciousness, the textile industry has been desperately seeking truly sustainable alternatives to traditional synthetic fibres such as polyester that make the bulk of cycle apparel. Among these innovative options, Tencel bamboo stands out as a genuine solution that combines the benefits of bamboo with the eco-friendly production process of Tencel (lyocell) fibres. This remarkable fusion offers a textile that not only feels luxurious against the skin but also treads lightly on the planet without compromising on performance.
Bamboo, a rapid-growing and highly renewable plant, forms the foundational material for Tencel bamboo fibres. Its impressive growth rate, low resource requirements, and natural resistance to pests render it an ideal candidate for sustainable fibre production. The journey from bamboo shoots to Tencel bamboo fabric is a multi-step process that involves cutting-edge technology while adhering to principles of environmental responsibility.
The transformation begins with the harvesting of mature bamboo stalks. Unlike traditional timber, bamboo can be harvested without uprooting the entire plant, ensuring its continued growth and sustainability. Once harvested, the bamboo undergoes a process called pulping. This entails breaking down the plant into individual fibres through either mechanical or chemical means. Mechanical pulping employs mechanical action to separate the fibres, while chemical pulping employs chemicals to dissolve lignin and extract fibres, leaving behind the woody remnants.
The pulped bamboo then progresses to the solvent spinning stage, a hallmark of Tencel production. Here, the bamboo pulp is dissolved in a solvent to create a solution known as cellulose xanthate. This solution is carefully filtered to eliminate any impurities, ensuring the highest quality cellulose source for the subsequent steps.
The heart of the transformation lies in the regeneration phase. The filtered cellulose xanthate solution is meticulously extruded through spinnerets into a coagulating bath. Within this bath, the solvent is removed, causing the cellulose xanthate to revert to its original state as cellulose fibres. This step is crucial in maintaining the integrity of the bamboo fibres while creating a sustainable closed-loop system. In this closed-loop process, the solvent is recycled and reused, significantly minimizing waste and reducing the environmental footprint of production.
After regeneration, the fibres undergo thorough washing to eliminate any residual solvent or impurities. Subsequent bleaching processes ensure the fibres achieve the desired colour and level of purity. The washed, bleached fibres are then carefully dried and cut into staple lengths, ready to be spun into yarn or used in various textile applications.
The versatility of Tencel bamboo fibres shines through in the spinning and weaving or knitting stage. These fibres can be spun into yarns of varying thicknesses, each lending distinct qualities to the final fabric. They can also be blended with other yarns to create a fabric that performs and handle differently, making it compete with synthetic fibres that are major pollutants.
The weaving or knitting process showcases the adaptability of Tencel bamboo fibres, allowing for the creation of an array of textile products, ranging from performance apparel to sumptuous bedding.
When we blend Bamboo Tencel with superfine merino wool, the end result is a fabric that is soft to the touch, fast wicking, quick drying and odour free. This therefore outperforms typical synthetic fibres such as polyester that increase your core temperature and attract bacteria, meaning your garment will start to smell after several uses. It also produces a fibre that is 100% natural and therefore biodegradable, putting back valuable nutrients into the earth, unlike synthetics fibres.
At the core of Tencel bamboo's allure is its exceptional blend of attributes. The bamboo-derived cellulose imparts natural moisture-wicking properties to the fabric, ensuring comfort in various climates and performance activities. The resulting textile feels exquisitely soft against the skin, making it a favourite for garments meant to be worn close to the body. Furthermore, the closed-loop production process minimizes environmental impact by conserving water, reducing emissions, and promoting resource efficiency.
Overview of Bamboo Tencel production -:
- Harvesting Bamboo: Bamboo is a renewable resource that grows quickly and requires minimal pesticides or fertilizers. It is harvested, and the bamboo stalks are cut into small pieces.
- Chemical Processing: The bamboo pieces are then subjected to a chemical process called hydrolysis alkalization or the viscose process. In this process, the bamboo cellulose is broken down using a mixture of chemicals (sodium hydroxide and carbon disulphide) to create a solution known as "bamboo pulp."
- Pressing and Filtering: The bamboo pulp solution is then pressed and filtered to remove impurities and create a clear, viscous liquid.
- Extrusion: The filtered bamboo pulp solution is extruded through spinnerets, which are fine nozzles, into a coagulating bath. The coagulating bath contains a solution that helps solidify the bamboo cellulose into fibre strands.
- Washing: The newly formed fibre strands are washed to remove any residual chemicals and impurities from the fibre.
- Drying: The washed bamboo fibres are then dried to reduce their moisture content and enhance their strength.
- Spinning: The dried bamboo fibres are spun into yarn using traditional textile spinning methods.
- Weaving/Knitting: The bamboo yarn can be woven or knitted into various textile products like fabrics, clothing, and more.