The system encompasses a fiber disentangler (right) and a separation chamber (left), which are connected by a copper helix pipe.
The system encompasses a fiber disentangler (right) and a separation chamber (left), which are connected by a copper helix pipe.
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Protein fibers, like wool, are one of the valuable textile materials. HKRITA has developed a system to separate protein fibers from synthetic textile material using the triboelectric properties of different kinds of textile fibers.

The system consists of a fiber disentangler and a separation chamber, which are connected by a copper helix pipe. Sliver cuts are first made to each individual fiber in the fiber disentangler. Airflow will draw the disentangled fibers along the copper helix pipe.

Copper, the material of the helix pipe, is an appropriate choice of material in the triboelectric series with its low resistivity and good grounding properties. It can be used to charge protein and synthetic fibers continuously.

When the disentangled fibers rub against the inner wall of the helix pipe, protein fibers give up electrons to the helix pipe. At the same time, synthetic fibers gain electrons. Protein fibers will thus become positively charged, while synthetic fibers acquire negative charging. This is how the triboelectric effect takes place.

Airflow causes the charged fibers to move along the separation chamber where two high potential plate electrodes of opposing polarity are set up. A strong electric field is thus created from the positive electrode to the negative electrode. The electric field exerts a force which brings positively charged fibers close to the negative plate.

At the same time, negatively charged fibers are brought close to the positive plate. Separation takes place and the separated protein and synthetic fibers will drop into two individual collection boxes.

It is a physical separation process without using any water or chemicals. No waste will be discharged to the environment. The recovered fibers are left clean and intact. The value of the protein fibers can be retained after separation and can be reused in the production of high-value garments.