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Everybody’s talking about it. Everybody wants it. That’s why many manufacturers use it in their fabrics: A breathable membrane. But how does this membrane actually work and why is it used so often in functional clothing?
The main feature of this membrane is its breathability. This makes it possible for perspiration to be transported to the outside of the clothing so that sweat is not accumulated underneath. On the other hand, the garment remains waterproof.
To ensure all of these features, the textile industry typically employs two different types of membranes – the microporous and the poreless membrane.
For the microporous membrane, PTFE is stretched out in order to transform the dense plastic foil into a structure with multiple tiny pores. Thus water is not able to puncture the membrane and cannot travel to the inside of the garment.
In addition, ePTFE (expanded PTFE) is highly hydrophobic and repels water. This means that because of the membrane’s low surface tension, water will simply dribble off the fabric and not adhere to it. In contrast, sweat is able to pass through the membrane. Due to its very small size, it can be transported to the outside of the garment.
During the production process of PTFE perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is produced, which is suspected of causing cancer. Most manufacturers including ARYS have since started using other synthetics with microporous structures or poreless membranes based on physicochemical principles.
This membrane technology uses two different material components. One hydrophilic (water-attracting) material such as polyether, and one hydrophobic (water-repellent) material such as polyester. The moisture produced by the human body makes the hydrophilic molecular chains swell up. This creates tiny openings that enable the water vapor to be transported to the outside. As the body begins to sweat, the temperature and humidity underneath the garment rises. When that temperature exceeds the outside temperature or humidity, the membrane works best. The more you sweat, the more moisture will be transported to the outside by the membrane. This way the membrane ensures ideal breathability. Due to the tight structure, the fabric also continues to be waterproof.
The described technology is used by ARYS in the shape of a polyurethane membrane (PU membrane) in its fabrics. Another new technology used by ARYS is the c-change® membrane by Schoeller. This membrane emulates nature, more precisely, pine cones. Pine cones open up their structure when high temperatures arise and close it when it gets colder. Schoeller uses and incorporates that concept into the c-change® membrane. Transferred over to the membrane, this enables the polymer structure to open up during physical activities, i.e. rising temperatures and humidity, and contract in cold surroundings or environments with lower levels of humidity.