BleNaBis: Climate-neutral carpet fibres

The surfaces of carpets are generally made of wool or synthetic fibres such as polyamide. The carbon footprints of these two materials are not as “fluffy” as the carpets are soft however: wool production is an energy-intensive process as a result of keeping animals and a conventional carpet made of polyamide produces the equivalent of eight kilograms of CO2 emissions per square metre. In collaboration with other European research institutes, the Institute for Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH Aachen University is currently developing a climate-neutral fibre based on renewable raw materials, which will not only match the quality of polyamide, but can also be produced in a more energy efficient way.

The fibres consist of linseed fibres and a sustainable eco-polyamide fibre. The linseed fibre comes from flax fibre which is extracted from the stems of flax plants that are no longer needed. The eco-polyamide fibre consists of 70 per cent castor oil, which is obtained from the castor oil plant, a plant that does not compete with the food production sector. The combination of these two fibres will make the carpet durable and of high quality. The fibre mixture is expected to bring the climate footprint of a carpet with similar characteristics down to an equivalent of 2.6 to 4.1 kilograms of CO2 emissions per kilogram pellet and thus improve the balance by more than half.

Engine for progress:

  • Carpet fibres based on renewable raw materials, containing no mineral oils
  • Low energy consumption for producing linseed fibre
  • No competition with foodstuffs
  • Virtually carbon-neutral carpet fibres

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Photo:mInstitut für Textiltechnik der RWTH Aachen (ITA)

Linseed fibre after processing: these fibres are mixed with bio-based polyamides and spun into yarn for producing carpets.

Quality control using the office chair simulator

More than 50 per cent of all carpets are not woven but “tufted”, whereby textile loops are worked into a fabric backing, similar to the method used in tatting. The quality standards are high and the carpets produced have to be subjected to very stringent quality analysis. An office chair simulator carries out a stress test to check whether the carpet can withstand the level of wear to be expected in an office.

BleNaBis (Blends of Natural and Biosynthetic fibres for eco-efficient yarns and carpets) covers all stages of the value added chain: from harvesting the fibres to producing the flax fibre, to rotor spinning (a procedure also used in making jeans), right up to producing the carpet. The flax fibre is cultivated and processed in the Czech Republic; the ITA mixes the linseed fibre with the polyamide fibre and spins the yarn from this using the rotor spinning process. The production and testing of the carpets is then carried out at the TFI Institut für Bodensysteme der RWTH Aachen e.V. (Textile and Flooring Institute at RWTH Aachen University).

The BleNaBis project was provided via the Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF) as part of the programme to support Industrial Community Research and Development (IGF) and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, on the basis of a resolution passed by the German Bundestag.

Photo: Institut für Textiltechnik der RWTH Aachen (ITA)

“In the BleNaBis project, we are developing processes used to produce flooring systems from bio-based polyamides and linseed flax fibres. The combination of these two materials allows us to improve the carbon footprint of flooring systems. In addition, we are demonstrating new areas of application for natural fibres and bio-based polyamides.”

Engineer Dipl.-Ing. Marko Wischnowski and M.Sc. Tobias Schlüter, Project Leaders of BleNaBis

Partners and sponsors

  • Institut für Textiltechnik der RWTH Aachen
  • Forschungskuratorium Textil
  • TFI - Institut für Bodenbeläge der RWTH Aachen
  • Inotex
  • Agritec
  • Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi)