Ascend Performance Materials has introduced Acteev Protect, a breakthrough technology specially formulated to guard against the growth of mildew, fungi, and other microbes to keep textiles and nonwoven fabrics fresher for longer.
“The technology is a leap forward in protection for face masks, apparel, upholstery, air filters and more,” said Lu Zhang, Ascend’s vice president leading the Acteev launch. “Bacteria, mildew and other microbes growing on fabrics and filters cause the item to break down, discolor and give off unpleasant smells,” she said. “Acteev Protect guards against that microbial growth, keeping the articles clean.”
The technology has been in development for several years, but with the recent shortage of articles resistant to microbial growth, Ascend accelerated the product launch by partnering with independent labs to test and reallocate resources to scale up production. “The current global scarcity of microbe-resistant materials is not going to end unless manufacturers can obtain the right media,” Zhang said. “We saw a way we could quickly meet those urgent needs with this innovative technology.”
Acteev Protect combines zinc ion technology with polyamide-based woven, nonwoven and knit fabrics. The active zinc ions are embedded into the polymer matrix, providing a long-lasting solution that does not wash away, unlike topical finishes or coatings. The polyamide fabrics are durable yet soft to the skin, and the nonwoven filtration media – available as nanofibers, meltblown, and spunbond – efficiently keep unwanted particles.
The embedded zinc in its ionic form is a powerful inhibitor of bacterial growth, said Vikram Gopal, Ascend’s senior vice president of technology. “Zinc is an essential element needed for bacterial growth, so bacteria readily allow it inside the cell body. But the zinc ion outcompetes other essential elements such as manganese and magnesium and chokes their ingestion channels,” he said. “Without those minerals, the microbes can’t grow or reproduce.”
Gopal added, “Other products use silver as an antimicrobial, but that metal comes with unwanted environmental consequences. Silver is typically used as a finish or a coating. That process is water-intensive, and the excess silver has to be disposed of, eventually ending up in our waterways.”
Zinc, however, is labeled Generally Regarded as Safe by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Additionally, the fabrics feature all the benefits of premium polyamides, which offer more comfort than polypropylene in single-use masks and allows knits and wovens to be dyed, printed on, and laundered.
“Polyamide 66 wovens and knits have considerable advantages over other types of nylons in garments and other textile applications,” said Harrie Schoots, president-elect of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and a senior business leader of Ascend’s textile business.
“This material resists abrasion and doesn’t pill or shed microfibers. It has a soft hand and excellent drape, and it can be dyed solid or bright colors,” Schoots said. “Uniforms or activewear made with Acteev Protect will be durable and comfortable and can be designed to match current color trends.”
Additionally, these features will last the lifetime of the garment. “Because the zinc ions are embedded during the polymerization process, knit and woven articles made with Acteev Protect stand up to 50 washes or more,” Schoots said.
Ascend is the world’s largest fully integrated producer of polyamide 66 resins and also manufactures fibers and chemicals. Acteev Protect is the company’s first product offering available in ready-to-use fabric form factors. The company plans to extend the line in the coming months to include polyamide 66 fabrics for medical applications and engineered plastics for high-touch surfaces.