W.L. Gore & Associates is officially rolling out a new product creation known as an expanded polyethylene membrane.
The upcoming Gore-Tex product offers a thinner, lighter and more sustainable material for use across a litany of brands, from Adidas to Arc’teryx, Salmon to Ziener and Dakine to Patagonia.
The new membrane technology, set for debut in fall/winter 2022, is being dubbed ePE by Gore. By combining expanded polyethylene with polyurethane, the result creates a durably waterproof, windproof and breathable membrane in about half the thickness.
“As a material science and innovation organization, we are committed to using our expertise to constantly explore material advancements,” says Ross MacLaine, Gore global fabrics sustainability leader.
Gore says the material leverages a high strength-to-weight ratio for a thin, lightweight product that enables durability. While microporous polyethylene has been available for years, those materials lacked the durability for waterproof, windproof and breathable apparel. The challenge, then, was making it work for the Gore-Tex brand. By manipulating the polyethylene, Gore can create a highly porous, strong polymer framework. In fact, the billions of tiny holes in the manipulated material allow vapour to pass through to make it breathable, all while holding out water and wind.
“The membrane material is the functional foundation of a broader system,” says Matt Decker, global technical and innovation leader for consumer fabrics. “It is a microporous material that is a wonderful scaffold as a base material for creating waterproof and breathable fabrics.”
The new membrane also reduces the thickness by half compared to current membranes, meaning it easily works into finished products anywhere from apparel to footwear to accessories, as proven by Gore’s extensive field and lab testing.
The ePE with polyurethane exploits the right combination of characteristics for thin, lightweight durability and that membrane can then bond to textiles to form a Gore-Tex laminate. The laminate is used by customers—the biggest name brands in the outdoor space—to create finished products in the consumer space.
“Much of the knowledge that we’ve developed over the last 40 years isn’t specific to a singular material,” says Decker. “This expertise and deep understanding of our applications is what enables us to create complementary, durable ePE products for use in Gore-Tex brand consumer products.”
The ePE also lowers Gore’s carbon footprint, as measured by Higg MSI, in the creation of the product by producing a material free of PFCs of Environmental Concern by using non-fluorinated materials. The low membrane mass also helps reduce the material’s carbon footprint and helps move toward the brand’s goal of being free of PFCs of Environmental Concern.
“ePe is a natural extension of our history and tied to our heritage,” Decker says, adding that the material will help Gore-Tex “move toward the future” in both sustainability and performance.
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