No blow with BASF

It’s Sunday and the sun is shining and we are just back from Lineapelle. I am sitting in the garden blowing through a tube sent to me by BASF. One moment it is easy and the next impossible to blow through it.

Now leather is outstanding in that it can hold large amounts of humidity without feeling damp, and this is superb for comfort since it allows a shoe lining, for example, to absorb all the perspiration that rushes from the foot in a moment and lets it evaporate in its own time. This stops moisture sitting against the foot, getting cold and creating discomfort. Of course you all know this, as it has been taught to us for the last 99 years (a little longer for those who are linked to Leeds).

underside-trainerWhat BASF have is a “superabsorbent”. This is a functional polymer made by via a joint association between BASF and IQTEX. I knew about IQTEX before as it was a winner a year ago in the sportswear accessories section of the Brand New awards at ispo. I was a member of the judges for quite a few years and was very sorry to have to give it up at the end of 2007.

The BASF and IQTEX product is the technical membrane Vayu Verde. The superabsorbent is a cross linked polyacrylate that can absorb up to 500 times its own weight in water. Not 20 or 25% like leather or even the much higher amounts that chamois can hold but 500%. And superabsorbents do not release water under pressure. So the Vayu Verde fleece can be as “air-permeable as a cotton T-shirt or as watertight as rain boots” according to Michael Dehn the managing director of IQTEX.

If you get the fleece suddenly wet the superabsorbent immediately swells and seals the system, staying watertight even under very high pressure. Then the material soon dries and regains its breathability. So what I have is my little tube with the fleece forming one wall and a spray bottle of water. Blow when it is dry and the air rushes through, no problem. Spray water on the fleece bit and nothing gets through no matter how hard you blow, how beetroot you become.

So sit back and enjoy the white wine in the sun, and then after a few minutes the fleece has dried and blowing is easy. Remarkable. Vayu Verde fleece is marketed by BASF as Luquafleece. Expect to see Vayu Verde in shoes from Baak and Elefanten before the end of the year. It will then roll out in garments, gloves and helmets.

BASF also indicate that one use of superabsorbents is the storage of water underground as plant roots are able to absorb the water stored in them slowly and evenly. Clever idea for arboriculture in Ethiopia.

Mike Redwood

27th April 2008

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