Remember when cycling kit was invariably made out of wool? Things could get extremely sweaty, and then everything changed with the introduction of lightweight, synthetic fibres... but an Illinois-based biotech firm could be about to take us back but to the future with its patented Clarus technology, which alters 'virgin' (first time use) and recycled plant fibres like cotton to transform into high-performance materials, providing a more sustainable alternative to synthetics.
The technology, according to Natural Fiber Welding (NFW), drives extensive intermolecular bonding in natural polymers, effectively lengthening and strengthening natural fibres. “It uses ionic liquids to swell, mobilise and then reconstruct cellulosic bonds at the molecular level,” NWF explains.
Clarus is designed to make it possible to manufacture performance apparel with recycled and virgin natural fibres: “By retaining the all-natural polymeric properties of the input fibres, what starts as circular by nature can end as circular by nature.”
“When Clarus returns strength and tenacity to recycled fibres, resource demands for virgin fibres are reduced,” reads the Clarus website.
“Our closed-loop chemistry process enables naturally plentiful materials – like cotton, hemp, and wool – to take new shapes and perform at new levels.
“This means synthetic-like performance but from 100% natural sources.”
Clarus is claimed to be 'game-changing' for its sweat-wicking qualities, with NFW saying: "By using hydrogen bonding networks to change the form factor and shape of natural yarns, Clarus improves the way natural materials absorb transport and evaporate moisture”,
NFW also claims Clarus is “a moisture management breakthrough to rival synthetics”.
The improved strength achieved through fibre-welding is said to increase the garment lifespan: “The Clarus platform drives extensive hydrogen bonding between natural fibres, resulting in performance-ready yarns and fabrics resistant to fraying, piling and abrasion damage.”
Ralph Lauren is the first clothing brand to bring a product to market using the technology, with the RLS Clarus Polo Shirt debuting at the 2022 Australian Open Tennis Tournament. Californian outerwear company Patogonia, which is very well-regarded for its sustainability initiatives, has also partnered with NFW.
You can find out more about the technology at clarus.naturalfiberwelding.com
Is cycling kit really going to go au naturel again? As always, let us know what you think in the comments below.