Unipetrol | Fuelling Innovations | Articles

What does functional clothing have in common with diapers?

You put on a functional T-shirt, run your regular ten kilometres, and you are not bothered by unpleasant sweat. Your baby will stay dry all night thanks to diapers.

Did you know that the material used in functional clothing has a lot in common with baby diapers? Both products are made from the so-called polyolefins, materials that are non-absorbent (hydrophobic), unlike paper, cotton or wood, but, if necessary, the surface of the products can be adjusted to be hydrophilic. The liquid can then flow through a certain part of the product while being repelled by another part.

Specifically, functional underwear is non-absorbent and permanently dry as it drains sweat from the skin to the surface from which it can evaporate. Polypropylene, one of the polyolefins, can be used to produce Moira fibre, a solid but still the lightest, warmest and most flexible of synthetic fibres, it doesn’t cause allergic reactions, it has high abrasion resistance (2,5 times higher than cotton), and low absorption.

What does functional clothing have in common with diapers?
read more

In baby diapers, but also in women's hygienic or incontinence pads, the material can absorb a large amount of liquid, keeping the body dry.

Polyolefins are also suitable for food packaging or roof insulation

Polypropylene is harmless, making it suitable for storing food. It is used in the production of yoghurt cups, plastic bags and cups for frozen foods. It is also suitable for producing hygienic material such as toothbrushes (using low shrinkage of polypropylene), brushes, syringes, protective masks and clothing, or just single-use children and incontinence nappies or sanitary napkins.

Rainproof vapour-permeable films can also be made from polyolefins. They are suitable for outdoor clothing and equipment, but for building roof insulation, too. Polyolefins are also used in manufacture of cold and hot water pipes, which have almost completely replaced previously produced steel pipes.

They are also used for packaging cosmetics, disinfectants and medicaments - specifically for transparent or colour-tinted vials, cartridges, buckets, bowls, dragées or applications of disinfectants and deodorants. To produce tinted containers, polymer concentrates containing colour pigments are used to produce final products in required shades.

Polyolefins enable the production of thinner fibres for solid nonwoven textile, and also the production of flexible and soft fabrics.

Advantages? They are eco-friendly and easy to process

Compared to other materials, polyolefins have many advantages:

  • low production costs on raw materials and energy,
  • unlike PVC, polystyrene and polycarbonate, they are eco-friendly,
  • excellent mechanical properties,
  • they are easily processed for a wide variety of products – e.g. fibres, foils, tubes, plates, injection,
  • significantly lower density compared to other polymers such as PVC, PET, polyurethanes, polycarbonates or polystyrene,
  • they are lighter than water (they float on the surface),
  • their structure and properties can be varied in various ways, they can have predetermined strength, stiffness, flexibility or temperature resistance.

Development of new types of polyolefins at the Polymer Institute Brno

Researchers at the Polymer Institute Brno, which is part of Unipetrol, are engaged in the development of new types of polyolefins with unique properties that allow further applications.

"We have several goals. Firstly, the improvement of polyolefin production technology, i.e. the development of more active polymerization catalysts, the minimization of production costs, the increase in reactor performance and reliability. Secondly, improving the quality and performance of polyolefins produced, i.e. improving strength, temperature resistance, toughness, minimizing shrinkage and the like," explains Jan Kratochvíl, Head of Polypropylene Technology at the Polymer Institute Brno.

Unipetrol produces almost 300,000 tons of polypropylene Mosten per year.

Did you know that...?

  • Polypropylene, like DNA, produces crystals in the form of helix? Revealing this unique structure in the 1950s "broke the natural monopoly" of synthesis of stereo-regular polymers.
  • Polypropylene was discovered, with the help of so-called Prof. Ziegler's catalysts, by Giulio Natta in 1954 in the Italian town of Ferrara? Since then, these catalysts have been called Ziegler-Natta catalysts.
  • A typical component of these catalysts is the element of titanium, which is also a basic raw material for the aircraft and missile industry?
  • Polypropylene is recyclable after sorting?
  • For the discovery of polypropylene, the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded in 1963 to Karl Ziegler and Giulio Natta?
Karl Ziegler Giulio Natta