A new way to make a nonwoven fibrous film without expensive, specialized equipment is available for licensing. The secret is reactive extrusion of a two-phase, incompatible blend of PE and polyethylene oxide (PEO) into film, which then goes through a water bath to dissolve the PEO (which is reused), leaving a soft, silky, hygroscopic nonwoven. Kimberly-Clark Worldwide Inc., Neenah, Wis., developed and patented the technology in the mid-’90s but never commercialized it. Kimberly-Clark is offering it for license via Yet2.com, a technology-transfer company in Cambridge, Mass.
The film can be extruded directly from a twin-screw compounder, or the two-phase composite can be mixed and pelletized and then extruded a second time into cast or blown film. PE, the major phase, starts as “islands” in the PEO matrix. During extrusion, these islands are stretched into a network of highly oriented filaments. A higher percentage of PE makes thicker fibers. Thicker film makes a stronger nonwoven, but it takes longer to wash out the PEO. Yet2.com: (617) 557-3800 • www.yet2.com