Byline: Michael McNamara
NEW YORK — Attempting to open new markets for its acetate, Hoechst Celanese has created an antimicrobial acetate — in staple and filament — that the company is calling MicroSafe AM. Designed to retard the growth of bacteria, the fiber was developed in conjunction with Microban Products Co., Huntersville, N.C., a producer of antibacterial products.
Hoechst Celanese officials said the product is being aimed at the hosiery, running bra and high-performance activewear markets — segments where acetate doesn’t have a major presence. Acetate’s big push to date has been in women’s fashion apparel.
MicroSafe AM, which took 18 months to develop, works by allowing the proprietary antimicrobial substance — Microban — to pierce the cell wall of a microorganism and kill it.
The fiber is produced by injecting Microban into the raw acetate dope. The mixture is then processed through the entire acetate production cycle — acetyzing, washing, drying, dissolving and dry spinning — and becomes integrated with the fiber.
MicroSafe AM can contain percentages of Microban antimicrobial additive ranging from 0.02 percent to 2 percent by weight, according to which microorganisms — such as bacteria, yeasts or fungi — it is expected to control in a particular application, said Ken Saylor, director of Hoechst Celanese’s acetate business unit. Because the thickness of the cell wall of different bacteria might vary, different amounts of the additive may be needed, Saylor said, adding that medical and industrial uses could require a greater percentage of Microban.
The fiber, which begins shipment this week, is being produced at Hoechst Celanese’s acetate plant in Rock Hill, S.C.
“We selected Microban as an antimicrobial additive because it is registered with both the Environmental Protection Agency [#42182-1] for use in fibers, and with the Food and Drug Administration to be used for certain medical end-product applications,” Saylor said.
Pat Pearsall-Ramey, HC’s acetate marketing manager, said the fiber could eventually account for 5 to 10 percent of HC’s overall acetate production. Currently, the company produces about 200 million pounds of acetate worldwide, 160 million pounds at Rock Hill.