The National Nanotechnology Centre (Nanotec) has set aside a budget of Bt300 million to set up the country's first bi-component fibre pilot plant to produce a new kind of fibre with special properties, in an effort to support the country's vision of becoming a centre of fashion.
The production of bi-component fibre uses a technology that combines two different polymers, with their own distinct chemical properties, to get a new kind of fibre that offers varying functionalities.
It is expected that the technology will help the local textile sector in building competencies in the upstream industry by producing various kinds of new functional fibres and add to the local textile value chain.
Nanotec's director Wiwut Tanthapanichakoon said the Bt300-million budget would be used to run the project for five years. In the first year of establishment, the centre will spend around Bt60 million to set up the plant.
The centre has collaborated with the Rajamangala University of Technology Krungthep (RMUTK) to establish the pilot plant.
The plant, which will be located at RMUTK's campus, will have a group of scientists who will conduct bi-component fibre research to develop new kind of products for the local textile industry.
Since bi-component fibre is new to the industry, Wiwut said the pilot plant would be a place where the industry can conduct experiments on the new fibre before commencing mass production.
The technology brings two different polymers with different properties together in the spinning process and extrudes them into a bi-component fibre. The technique combines the two polymers, thereby offering fibres with several new properties.
The centre is in the process of setting up the plant. It is expected that the process will take around nine months to develop.
Meanwhile, the centre has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Taiwan Textile Research Institute for technology transfer on bi-component fibre development. Under the agreement, the centre will send researchers for training to Taiwan.
The centre has previously conducted research on developing bi-component fibre to support the textile industry.
The research studied polymer properties and experimented with combining complementary polymers to develop new properties.
"We have gained the knowledge and hope to move up to the production stage," Wiwut said.
The pilot will focus on the development of bi-component fibre for use in apparel and home textiles.
However, with more functionalities, the technology can be applied for use in developing textiles for medical, sports and automotive applications.
The technology has the ability to develop textiles with properties such as resistance to bacteria, heat and humidity.
The plant is expected to be operational about 250 days a year, and 40 per cent of its working capacity will be reserved for producing fibres for the textile industry on a small scale. The remaining capacity will be dedicated to research.
Through the production technology developed in the pilot plant, it is expected that the plant will be able to produce 40 kilograms of bi-component fibre per hour. However, the initial production capacity will be limited to 20 kilos per hour.
To give a boost to local research on bi-component fibre, the centre is also working with two other universities - Chulalongkorn University and Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi - to set up a Collaborative Research Consortium.