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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T024542/1
Title: STOP fibrous microplastic pollution from textiles by elucidating fibre damage and manufacturing novel textiles
Principal Investigator: Tausif, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Ghanbarzadeh, Dr A Neville, Professor A Carr, Professor CM
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Culimeta Saveguard Limited Gap Inc. The Microfibre Consortium
Unilever
Department: Sch of Design
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2020 Ends: 31 March 2023 Value (£): 624,583
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design & Testing Technology Design Engineering
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing
Related Grants:
EP/T02464X/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
04 Feb 2020 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 4 and 5 February 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Microplastics have been detected in all aquatic habitats, from deep oceans to polar icemelt and can be found in the guts and tissues of aquatic animals. More than one third of the microplastics found in the world oceans are fibrous microplastics from textiles [1]. The fibrous microplastics are released throughout the lifecycle of a textile and their presence in aquatic and terrestrial environments is now well-established phenomena. The washing of textiles annual releases an estimated 0.5 million tonnes fibrous microplastics ocean pollution, which at current rates is expected to accumulate to 22 million tonnes by 2050 [2].

Any remedial measures are challenging given the ubiquity of fibrous microplastics from textiles. Improved plastics with reduced environmental impact, plastic recycling and reduced consumption are extremely important but the release of fibrous microplastics from textiles remains a challenge. Here, we address this challenge by bringing together textile technology, computational modelling and tribology disciplines into a systematic programme of research. The overarching goal of this project is to experimentally and computationally elucidate fibre damage that leads to the generation of fibrous microplastics and use predictive computational modelling to inform the engineering of innovative textile structures which STOP the release of fibrous microplastics from textiles.

There are numerous studies on the release of fibrous microplastics from textiles but the reasons for the generation of fibrous microplastic pollution are not fully elucidated. Building on our preliminary work in a systematic study, a range of bespoke textile materials and structures will be exposed to conditions commonly experienced by textiles to elucidate fibre damage and dynamic changes in the microstructure of textile materials. Gap Inc. and The Microfibre Consortium will help to identify and supply commonly employed textiles to ensure the industrial relevance of the research.

For the first time, the computational wear modelling, based on non-destructive tomographic data of textile structures, will predict fibre damage. The complementary expertise of the University of Leeds and the University of Edinburgh will enable the development of a novel modelling approach. The experimental and computational understanding of fibre damage will also inform the intervention strategies to produce novel textile structures which STOP the release of fibrous microplastics from textiles under usual exposure conditions. The expert input and access to industrial-scale textile manufacturing equipment at Culimeta Saveguard UK will ensure the commercial relevance of developed technologies. The physical and/or chemical strategies can involve polymer modification during extrusion, the novel structural arrangement of fibres in fibrous assemblies, and application of surface finishes/treatment.

The success of the project will

- create a fundamental understanding of the fibre damage (that leads to the generation of fibrous microplastics) and microstructural changes in textiles.

- build realistic and predictive computational wear models of the textile materials and open new avenues for research.

- develop industrially and commercially relevant solutions to STOP the release of fibrous microplastics from textiles.

[1] Boucher J and Friot D. Primary microplastics in the oceans: a global evaluation of sources. IUCN Gland, Switzerland, 2017. [2] Ellen MacArthur Foundation. A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion's Future. 2017.
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Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk