freshly cleaned carpet

The future of carpet

Admittedly we don’t spend too much time dwelling on the future of carpet – we’ve got too much of it to clean at the moment to spend time wondering what’s around the corner! Having said that, we’ve come across some very interesting developments on the web we thought we’d share with you.

Most carpet technology developed over the past twenty years or so has related to the use of synthetic materials to achieve three things – colour fastness (ie to stop fading), stain and mark resistance and low cost. As we’ve described in previous articles (here for example: What is the best carpet? Synthetic or natural?), carpets have improved hugely in all of these ways. The next step may be something completely different – intelligent carpets.

Dutch technology company Philips is trialling embedding LED lighting in carpet, in partnership with a carpet and flooring company called Desso, which would effectively turn any carpet into a lightshow. The carpet has a layer of LED lights installed just below the surface, with the carpet above the LED lights a special ‘light transmissive’ carpet. This allows the carpet to look just like any other carpet, until the LEDs light up of course.

Applications being considered by the company include wayfinding in large public spaces like airports and conference and entertainment venues, where important messages and arrows can be programmed into the carpet surface. Philips and Desso believe that floor based signage may be more effective, as a lot of people look down at the floor as they are walking. Alternatively, the LED enabled carpet can be used to light a room in a particular way or with a particular colour. Yet another application might be in hotels, where ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs could appear in the floor, or, much like guidelights in aircraft cabins, display lights in the floor could be switched on in emergencies, guiding guests to the nearest safe exits. The product is scheduled for launch later this year.

Desso is also involved in another field of carpet technology, that of minimising air based allergens, with a product called AirMaster. Health professionals often advise people with severe allergies to take up wall to wall carpet, on the basis that the carpet can harbour the fibres and dust that cause the allergic reactions, which are released into the air as the carpet is walked on.

Carpet manufacturers dispute this claim, saying that carpet traps these particles. Desso has designed their AirMaster carpet specifically to trap and immobilise these particles in the carpet fibres themselves, so removing them from the air. The carpet does this without using chemicals, instead using the mechanical properties of the carpet fibres themselves to do the work – larger dust particles are caught in thicker yarns in the lower pile, and ultrafine filaments in the upper section of the carpet pile catch and trap those particles smaller than 10 micrometers.

German test institute GUI found that the AirMaster carpet was eight times more effective than hard flooring and four times more effective than normal carpet at trapping and retaining fine dust particles.

Desso believes the carpet will have applications in hospitals, schools and offices, especially when you consider that a person with a full-time office job spends an average of 1,800 hours every year in their office, and there can be a lot of foot traffic stirring up dust on the floor.