Eastman Chemical Co. has introduced Avra Performance Fibers, which it’s calling the next generation of polyester fiber aimed at the performance apparel market.

Avra is a family of performance fibers enabled by a proprietary spinning technology. Eastman explained that the first product enables a new ribbon-shaped synthetic fiber with an innovative shape and size.

“The apparel industry has known for decades that finer fibers create fabrics with softer hand and enhanced performance,” said Tim Dell, vice president of Eastman. “There is a limit to how fine you can go and still knit or weave on conventional equipment.”

Avra’s ultra-thin polyester fibers are extruded and held together by a proprietary removable polymer, enabling easy knitting or weaving. Once the fabric is made, the removable polymer completely washes away in hot water, resulting in ribbon-like fibers that are smaller than existing polyester fibers.

“The result is a distinctly silky fabric that keeps wearers drier and more comfortable than ever before,” Dell said.

The performance benefits imparted by this first Avra product include moisture management and a chemical-free “cool to the touch” sensation, Eastman said. Fabrics made with Avra dry quickly — up to 50 percent faster than conventional polyester fabrics.

Avra fibers are made in the U.S. in collaboration with Unifi Inc. in Yadkinville, N.C. This joint effort has enabled a physical plant expansion at Unifi and provided additional jobs to the region.

“Innovation in the Americas is more important today than ever before,” said Mark McNeill, vice president of technology and business development at Unifi. “Combining the technology and quality-driven expertise of Eastman and Unifi will help provide the industry with the next level of performance-enhancing fibers.”

Eastman is a global specialty chemical company that produces a broad range of consumer and industrial products. Eastman serves customers in about 100 countries and had 2015 revenues of $9.6 billion. The company is headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., and employs about 15,000 people around the world.

Unifi is a multinational manufacturer of textured and other processed yarns, specializing in polyester and nylon product offerings, including its flagship Repreve line of yarns made from recycled materials.

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