Introducing Tencel

Tencel* is a brand of fibre made by dissolving wood cellulose from tree-farms in an amine oxide solvent and spinning the resulting dope into fibres which are chemically identical to cotton and generically known as "lyocell".  

It was developed in Courtaulds Research in Coventry UK in the 1980's as a non-polluting route to the fibres which were expected to become increasingly important as the land used to grow cotton was switched to food production and the cheap oil for synthetic fibres ran out. 

The 1990's scale-up to multi-factory production probably occurred a decade too soon, Courtaulds being unable to sustain the investment when the market for the fibre took longer to develop than the Stock Market expected.  

Akzo Nobel bought Courtaulds in 1998 forming Acordis** Fibres which they later sold to Private Equity in 1999 (CVC Partners).  When the EU forbade CVC's attempt also to buy the Austrian cellulosics company Lenzing (2001), they broke up Acordis and regained their investment by selling Tencel Ltd to Lenzing (2004).

This blog is compiling a detailed history of the development from the publications of those years and the recollections of those involved by adding them as Posts and in Year folders. 

Click on the other Page Tabs above or the Year folders on the right for more information.  It has not been possible to maintain strict date order, but tidying up is now in progress, and a more chronologically accurate flow of posts will eventually emerge.

Links to basic information about Tencel follow and these contain several of the articles written to introduce Tencel over 20 years ago.  Hopefully more will be added as they come to light so check back occasionally.

"The Genesis of Sustainable Fibres" is a recent article written for the 25th anniversary of Tencel's commercial production in Grimbsy UK now published in Sustainable Nonwovens magazine with a link to this blog.

Tencel from Birth to Mainstream was written by Pat White, Tencel's Technical Director and presented at TITK 2004 at the time of the Lenzing takeover.

"The environmental aspects of solvent-spun cellulose production and use", was given at the Cellulose 91, Cellucon Conference, New Orleans, and later reprinted in Nonwovens Industry magazine.

All you need to know about Tencel is a comprehensive 2 page article from Textile Horizons written by Stan Davies based on an interview with Barrie March and Alan Jones in 1988.

A more recent and scholarly review of Tencel history has been written by Geoffrey Owen and appears at:

An excellent 2010 Life Cycle Assessment of Tencel and other cellulosic fibres is provided by the Copernicus Institute on the Lenzing website.

"Solvent Spun Fibre: a new member of the cellulose fibre family" by David Cole and Alan Jones given at the 1989 Dornbirn Conference and reprinted in Lenzinger Berichte in 1990 is also on the Lenzing website.

* "tencel" was originally chosen as the generic name for solvent-spun rayon and used as such until the US FTC decided it was too closely associated with Courtaulds PLC to be acceptable.  Lyocell then became the generic name and Tencel became the brand name for Courtaulds lyocell fibre and the name of the Courtaulds Division producing it. 

Since 2004, "Tencel" has been a Lenzing AG registered Trade Mark. 



Michael Winn said...

So Baby Wipes (made of Tencel by Kirkland and others) is not biodegradable in any useful period of time, i.e. not in time to avoid clogging sewer lines if flushed down a toilet. Wish that was noticed more clearly.

Calvin said...

All flushable wipes are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable wipes are flushable. It depends on the way the wipe is made. Tencel is biodegradable and wipes made from it can be flushable if the right process is used. The packaging should advise the correct disposal route.

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