• power textiles

    The power of Scottish technical textiles

    Dr. Robert Mather is an Executive Director at Power Textiles Limited, a pioneering technical textiles company based in the heart of the Scottish Borders.

    Power Textiles Limited specialise in the application of solar cells to textiles as an alternative to glass and capitalises on the commercial awareness of the ever-increasing market for solar panels.

    The company is currently developing the cell coating process and a wide variety of applications are envisaged for their product. These include agricultural applications, mounting for temporary accommodation (for refugees/emergency use/disaster areas), permanent fixtures on buildings (roofs/awnings) and military and defence applications.

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    Technical textile production in Scotland is far from new

    Scotland is still prominent in technical textiles today and, arguably, represents about 20% of the total UK commercial effort in this sector. The sector is growing at around 5% per annum.

    Technical textile production in Scotland is far from new.  Two hundred years ago, Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar was fitted with sail canvas manufactured by Baxters in Dundee.

    The variety of technical textiles produced in Scotland is immense, and covers a huge range of applications.  Just to give some examples:

    Bonar Yarns and Fabrics are prominent in the manufacture of artificial grass for football and hockey pitches.

    J&D Wilkie produce a variety of technical fabrics, including camouflage fabrics, filtration fabrics and heat shield fabrics.

    Scott and Fyfe make fabrics for the agricultural, automotive and sports markets.

    Don and Low, founded in 1792, make both nonwoven fabrics (for roofing membranes, cladding etc) and woven fabrics (e.g. for geotextile materials).

    The Survitec Group produce survival garments and life jackets for personnel in the offshore oil and gas industries and for sections of the armed services.

    Owen Sails are leading sail-makers.

    The leading manufacturer of wirecloth in the UK is United Wire, a company founded more than 175 years ago.

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    Scotland’s involvement in technical textiles is diverse, innovative, and also considerable

    Scotland’s involvement in technical textiles is diverse, innovative, and also considerable in terms of the size of its population.  Increasingly, Scottish technical textile products, notably in the biomedical sector, are becoming highly sophisticated. Vascutek produces vascular grafts and patches to highly demanding specifications. Lojigma is a leading producer of specialised - and reusable - surgical gowns. In addition, there is increasing emphasis for smart applications for textiles. 

    One example is the development of a micro-encapsulated headwear range providing aroma-therapeutic benefits to cancer patients. The range was developed by Murray Hogarth in association with Heriot-Watt University. Murray Hogarth in fact specialise in textile-based fashion accessories – an example of the increasing impact of design and aesthetics on technical textiles. Another example is the development by Power Textiles of a solar (photovoltaic) fabric, on which solar cells have been directly deposited – just like they are deposited on glass plates in conventional solar panels. An enormous array of applications is emerging for this development.

    Scotland has always been innovative in technical textiles, and will continue to be innovative for a long time to come.