Chemours wins Moore Medal for biobased Teflon, eyes further renewable innovations

18:17 PM | September 10, 2019 | Rebecca Coons

Chemours (Wilmington, Delaware) announced today that technical fellow John Sworen will receive the Gordon E. Moore Medal for leading the team that developed Teflon EcoElite, a nonfluorinated, renewably sourced durable repellant for use in consumer textiles. 

Commercially launched in 2015, Teflon EcoElite is Chemours’ first plant-based product as well as the first renewably sourced water repellant for the textile industry able to deliver high-performance wash durability, Sworen tells CW. "It's 60% renewable but does not sacrifice performance. Feedback from customers, brands, and consumers have favored Teflon EcoElite for both its durability and sustainability," Sworen says. 

Teflon EcoElite also works on a variety of fabrics and is compatible with commonly used finishing auxiliaries, including wetting agents and extenders. Colmar, a popular Italian ski apparel brand, was among the early adopters. "Colmar was looking at transforming the textile industry to a more sustainable offering without sacrificing performance," Sworen says. The company is currently using Teflon EcoElite on 90% of their skiwear and nearly 70% of all garments. 

Textiles is just the first targeted application. "Chemours is definitely looking to expand the Teflon EcoElite portfolio, and we are currently looking at other markets Chemours operates in," Sworen says. The textiles market was a good place to start because of the industry's need to improve its sustainability profile. "Really, the market-driven research for Teflon EcoElite started there because of that demand from brands." 

Sworen began his career as a research investigator at Chemours predecessor company DuPont. While at DuPont, he led the company's development of surface protection products, inventing and commercializing 18 products in the space. Sworen holds a B.S. in Chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Organic and Polymer Chemistry from the University of Florida. He is a Six Sigma Black Belt, has published 13 journal articles, and holds 27 granted and pending patents.

In the future, Chemours sees increased market opportunity for both fluorinated and nonfluorinated products, Sworen says. "We're investing in product innovation in both those families."  The company also plans to look at further opportunities to incorporate renewable feedstocks into its production, which will help it reach its ambitious sustainability goal to be carbon-positive by 2050. 

The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI), America Group, announced Sworen as the winner in May. SCI established the Gordon E. Moore Medal to recognize early-career success in innovation, as reflected both in market impact and improvement to quality of life.