The researcher duo Yatee Gupta and Prof Samrat Mukhopadhyay. (By Arrangement)
Meet Yatee Gupta and Samrat Mukhopadhyay, whose three-year-long research on textiles has shown promising results.
The researchers have developed a unique technology and novel chemical formulation to manufacture a highly-affordable and extremely effective anti-microbial fabric named Fabium®. The non-toxic white medical textile can destroy 99.9% of pathogens including viruses, bacteria and fungi within 30 minutes. Fabium can be made with any natural or synthetic material, can be dyed and designed.
Recently, it was certified for commercial-scale production after large-scale manufacturing trials.
Yatee Gupta is the founder of Fabiosys Innovations, a Delhi IIT healthcare start-up run by the Delhi Alumni Association. Its mentor, Samrat Mukhopadhyay, is a professor in the department of Textile and Fibre Engineering at the institute as well as chairman, Board of Academic Affairs, at the Indian Institute of Handloom Technology (IIHT).
Speaking about their journey, Gupta says, "We started off exploring medical textiles as an emerging industry in India with research on anti-bacterial material for Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI) in 2018, in order to prevent cross-contaminations in hospitals. The fabric was initially meant for doctors, nurses, hospital staff and patients. But as the Covid pandemic struck, we extended the scope of research to develop virus- and fungus-proof fabric. It is proven to kill the Coronavirus and influenza virus, black mold fungus and certain bacteria with up to 99.9 % efficacy. The fabrics can be used in surgical and N95 masks, coveralls (PPE suits), uniforms of both patients and hospital staff and bed-sheets."
The researchers quickly realised the potential of the product, not only in healthcare but also in the garment industry, where aesthetics play an important part. "Therefore, the fabric is devised in such a way that it can be used in designer dresses, upholstery, bedcovers and car-seat covers. Fabium can be made with any kind of fabric: natural or synthetic, woven, non-woven or knitted. One of the major USPs of Fabium is its natural colour, which is 100% white, making it suitable for dyeing, printing, embroidery, and other kinds of designing," Gupta shares.
"After industrial trials and testing (random sampling) we saw a consistent performance. We did third-party anti-microbial testing, got it ‘Formaldehyde free’ certified and did basic fabric testing — air permeability, hydrophilicity and rubbing fastness (to check by repeated rubbing, whether the fabric loses its functionality or not). The results we got were cross-checked. Our objective was also to make the final product as affordable as possible," Gupta elaborates, adding, "The affordability of Fabium is due to the technology behind it rather than cheap labour. Market research by Team Fabiosys indicates that the cost-effective novel chemical formulation and unique textile processing technology make Fabium an extremely affordable antiviral fabric."
During the period of lockdown, industries and production houses were closed. "We faced shortage of raw materials, lack of labourers and escalating costs. Once the government norms were eased, we could carry on with our work and gradually, after two years, succeeded in taking our technology beyond the laboratory level for large scale manufacture. Our first product using this fabric was the Indian flag," Gupta reveals.
Prof. Mukhopadhyay thanks the Department of Biotechnology, principal scientific advisor to the Government of India, IIT Delhi and FITT, which supported this cause during the crucial pandemic time.
Prof Mukhopadhyay says, "Fabium® is developed using a technology called Hi-PAT (High Performance Anti-Microbial Technology). A transparent chemical solution is applied on rolls of white fabric. It starts working within seconds of contact with pathogens and destroys 99.9% of them within 30 minutes. Ordinary antimicrobial fabrics available in the market inhibit microbes in a span of 24 hours and that too with unsatisfactory efficiency. This time-span makes the fabric products impractical for everyday life because a typical bacterium doubles in around 20-30 minutes. Thus, Fabium scores over similar products due to its high performance, time efficiency and highly affordable technology. Despite imparting functionality to the fabric, its physical parameters hardly change."
He adds, "Our mission is to manufacture Fabium on a large scale in India." The production capacity is about 20,000 metres of fabric per day.
The fabric is free from formaldehyde and metal nanoparticles, which cause toxicity and irritation to the human body. Rigorous tests show that Fabium is almost as air-permeable as regular fabrics, which makes it very useful in applications like masks and coveralls (PPE), where breathability is almost always an issue.
Large scale manufacturing of Fabium requires passing the raw cotton fabric through a set of proprietary chemical formulations while using the standard textile processing machinery commonly available in India.
"We have got multiple quotations from various healthcare institutes. Large-scale production will most likely start next month. We will also be tying up with textile manufacturers for using the fabric in the garment industry," says Gupta, and adds, We are receiving encouraging responses from the industry for manufacturing and distribution of Fabium products."