Tuesday, August 11, 2015

News: Xeros looking good in leather

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Xeros Ltd, an innovative cleantech company based in Rotherham, has completed the first phase in the development of its leather bead processing technology.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the Leeds University spin-out is best known for its "virtually waterless washing machine" that uses a unique method of special polymer beads rather than the usual large amounts of fresh water to clean clothes.

Initially targeting the commercial laundry market, and finding success across the US, the AIM-listed firm is also targeting the $50 billion leather processing market for the deployment of its polymer beads.

Xeros announced a joint development programme with LANXESS in April for the development of Xeros' technology for the leather industry. LANXESS is a DAX listed global speciality chemicals business based in Germany with sales of €8.3bn.

Now the firm has announced that the multi-phase joint development programme is on schedule with phase 1 concluding satisfactorily. The partnership is now going to enter the next phase of technical and commercial validation as planned for the second half of 2015.

The plan is to have a prototype in tannery trials in the second half of 2015.

Xeros' tiny, spheroidal plastic beads are able to absorb stains, stray dye, and soil, carrying them away from fabrics, resulting in a superior cleaning process that uses less water and chemicals. In commercial laundries, the technology has been proven to reduce water by up to 80%, energy by 50% and detergent by 50%.

A £75,000 research and development grant was used to test the use of the polymer beads in the processing of leather. Firstly to attract and absorb soiling, and then to dramatically improve the incorporation of tanning chemicals into the leather thanks to the significantly more uniform and gentler mechanical action.

Xeros worked with the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies at a shared facility at the University of Northampton.

Building on its success in the commercial laundry market, Xeros used the grant to design leather processing equipment of comparable cost to conventional machines that are used across the world. It was also envisaged that the Xeros technology may be retro-fitted to existing machines.

Traditional leather processing machines can consume approximately 90 tonnes of water to produce one tonne of leather. The company estimates that if all leather processing machines were converted to using Xeros technology, the potential global fresh water savings would equate to four billion litres per day.

Professor Tony Covington at the ICLT, University of Northampton, said: "This new technology will have a profoundly beneficial effect in permitting the leather industry to meet ever more stringent environmental targets, whilst simultaneously providing a means to obtain leather with markedly improved properties."

To commercialise the technology, the plan is to secure innovation partners at both ends of the supply chain – big leather consumer brands and tanneries further upstream.

Xeros website

Images: Xeros

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