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Textiles and Fabrics Industry - Early Adopters of Nanotechnology Bringing New Materials With Innovative Properties To The General Public - Supplier Data By Nanovic

Topics Covered

Background
Innovation in the Textiles Industry
Opportunities for Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology Victoria - Textiles Projects
The Textiles Industry in Australia

Background

The textiles industry has been one of the early adopters of nanotechnology products and processes. Branding of nanotechnology in the fabric industry will be important to the introduction of nanotechnology across the spectrum of industries.

Innovation in the Textiles Industry

Textiles innovation can comprise both product innovation "the development of new products to address existing or latent consumer demand" or process innovation, leading to lower unit costs, greater capacity, or improved quality. Australia is well positioned to take the lead in textiles innovation, due to its strong production base, good technology base and established infrastructure (manufacturing, marketing, distribution, quality control).

In Australia, technology supply to the industry is led by CSIRO Textile & Fibre Technology: the leading domestic technology supplier to sectors such as wool, cotton, leather and technical textiles at the fibre, yarn, fabric and garment levels.

The Intelligent Polymer Research Institute, which includes University of Wollongong, RMIT University, CSIRO TFT, CSIRO CMIT, has internationally recognised expertise.

The Council of Textile and Fashion Industries Limited is also engaged in a range of projects aimed at assisting the Australian Textiles and Clothing industry to create, adapt and commercialise innovative practices and products.

Opportunities for Nanotechnology

In the near term, the opportunity for nanotechnology in the textiles industry is in product innovation, not process innovation. Nanotechnology is more likely to be used to produce new materials, or enhance the properties of existing materials, than to reduce the production cost or improve quality.

A number of nanotechnology innovations are already commercially available. These include:

  • Stain, wrinkle, and liquid-resistant fabrics
  • Clothing which can absorb body odours
  • Clothing that emits deodorant by slow release
  • Clothing that changes colour with change in light
  • Clothing that changes colour with external or body heat

There are a number of opportunities which will be explored as nanotechnology develops further:

  • New blended fabrics for specific applications (eg. sportswear, mountainwear, military applications); including the incorporation of Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) into fabrics. It is expected that composites with CNTs or interweaving with extruded CNT fibres will introduce higher conductivity and capacitive, as well as high strength.
  • Property enhancement or alterations (UV blocking, durability, breathability, flexibility, recyclability, colour retention, self-repair etc.); included in this are the introduction of electronic properties into fabrics by treatment with inherently conducting polymers. These provide capabilities such as sensing (chemical and mechanical), energy generation (photovoltaics), energy storage (batteries, supercapacitors) and charge dissipation (anti-static). Additionally, controlled release polymers may replenish and/or trigger release of antifungal, surface finish or medical growth aids to the polymer surface. The triggered release systems may be made to be responsive to stimuli such as changes in temperature, humidity pH and/or dissolved oxygen.
  • Development of specific aesthetic properties (eg. glow in the dark, colour change with angle of light, colour change artwork with applied electric field).
  • Production of synthetic fibres (eg. polyester) with properties of natural fibres (eg. wool) by surface coating.

Nanotechnology Victoria - Textiles Projects

Nanotechnology Victoria is project-managing a series of product evaluations for a Victorian nanoparticle manufacturer seeking opportunities in the treated textiles market. The particles have attractive optical properties which can be transferred to textiles through a polymer coating or lacquer. Product performance is critically dependent upon binding within the coating; dispersion mechanisms and loading of the particles.

Nanotechnology Victoria's evaluation and design process is likely to lead to new applications for nanoparticles, and also provide valuable technical marketing support to the manufacturer's strategy.

NanoVic has already invested in the development of capabilities which will support textile nanotechnology:

  • The Victorian Advanced Microscopy Centre to be established at Monash University in 2006 will include state-of-the-art characterization equipment (FEG-TEM and FEG-SEM) able to analyze composition of materials such as fibres to the molecular level. Key projects related to the textile industry include analysis of structures such as carbon nanotubes and nanofibres; nanoparticle-polymer composites; and engineering of multilayer nanostructures.

These will contribute to the development of new products for the Australian textiles industry, such as:

  • New polymers and polyurethanes with enhanced strength and electrical properties
  • Materials with fire-resistant and biodegradable properties

NanoVic member CSIRO brings world-class expertise in wool and other keratin-based materials, and has recently been involved in a revolutionary development of carbon nanotube yarns.

At a broader level, Nanotechnology Victoria believes the technical textiles industry will be one of the leading adopters of nanotechnology over the coming decade in Victoria:

  • Nanotechnology treatments - largely provided by NanoTex (USA) - are already sold in garments marketed by Kathmandu and other Australian outdoor apparel producers.
  • Victoria has a vibrant technical textiles and specialty garment industry, featuring companies in the sportswear, mountainwear, defence and security and beachwear product sectors.
  • Textiles for industrial usage, such as conveyor belts and filters are also designed and made in Victoria.

Nanotechnology Victoria has received enquiries from firms in these areas, and is developing project proposals and relationships. The Victorian Government is also aware of the opportunity, and is considering establishment of one of its Application Development Centres for Technical Textiles.

Nanotechnology Victoria has also commenced relationships with a number of firms in Taiwan who are interested in applying significant Australian technological developments. These include:

  • Formosa Taffeta who have an interest specifically in nanopigments. They are also involved in reflective textiles, multifunctional moisture management fabrics, conductive textiles, clean room clothing and self-cleaning or antibacterial textiles.
  • The ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) has interests in a number of Nanotechnology Victoria's projects including thermal control coatings on window glass, dye-sensitised solar cells, heat transfer from IC devices, photocatalytic materials, and carbon nanotube based devices.
  • Haojey produce textiles containing a TiO2 particle core for UV resistance, as well as nanobamboo for odour adsorption, and silver nanoparticles for antibacterial textiles.

The Textiles Industry in Australia

The Australian textiles industry is one of Australia's major domestic industries, both in supply for domestic consumption and as an export earner. The industry has prospered in Australia due to an abundance of land for cheap production of natural fibres such as wool and cotton, and a concerted focus on investment and technology development for over 50 years. As a result:

  • Australia has a leading worldwide position in the production of wool (approx. 25% of worldwide production), cotton (12% of world exports) and blended fibres
  • The textiles industry contributed just over 5% to total value added in manufacturing in Australia in 1992/3
  • Western economies spend about 5% of their total personal expenditure on clothing and footwear

At the early stage processing end and in textiles the Australian industry is relatively concentrated with just a few major players in each key industry segment. However, further downstream in the processing chain, especially in relation to apparel, the industry is much more fragmented with a very large number of small and micro businesses and a few more dominant companies (eg. Pacific Brands and the Yakka Group). Local manufacturing has traditionally been highly protected through quotas and tariffs, although these have been dramatically reduced over time (with quotas eliminated in 1993 and tariffs reducing to 5% by 2015, subjecting the industry to significantly more restructuring pressure than faced by any other Australian industry).

Australian-based players in the technical textiles industry include:

  • Australian Defence Apparel - producers of a range of protective clothing
  • Melba Textiles - manufacturer and exporter of a comprehensive range of high performance fabrics for a wide range of industries
  • Textor Australia - foremost producer of non-woven textiles for uses in healthcare and hygiene, cleaning, filtration, food packaging and environmental applications

Other notable Australian companies in the associated fields of fabrics, garments, and footwear include:

  • Blundstone - footwea
  • CTE - protective apparel
  • Highmark Shoes - footwear
  • Godfrey Hirst - carpets
  • Oliver's - footwear
  • Yakka - workwear

In some of these areas Australian producers are world leaders. For example, Australian technology makes Albany International a world leader in filter bags for the power generation industry. Australian technology is also at the forefront of filtration in the alumina smelting industry, and in some geotextiles.

Australian textiles companies are using nanotechnology to produce new properties:

  • Australian Wool Innovation Ltd are actively researching fibres with over 60 projects ongoing at the moment. Their main focus is to produce fibres with significant weight reduction, increased stretch and better drape of the garments.
  • CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology researches a broad range of areas for textiles ranging from technical textiles based on synthetic fibres though to the natural fibres of wool, cotton and leather. In addition, the Molecular Science division has also cooperated with the industry on various projects relating to the textiles industry.
  • Both Australian Defence Apparel and Bruck Textiles are researching and selling in the field of protective clothing. This encompasses both civil and military applications such as fireman suits and bullet proof vests. Aspects of nanotechnology such as integration of CNTs could provide improved performance of the protective clothing.

Internationally, the acknowledged market leader in utilising nanotechnology in textiles to enhance their properties is NanoTex. NanoTex is a US based company that uses technology to create, alter and improve textiles at the molecular level to develop intelligent fabrics for better living. Their products are NANO-CARE®, NANO-DRY®, NANO-PEL(TM) and NANO-TOUCH(TM). NANO-CARE® is a stain repelling fabric that also has wrinkle resistance yet retains good breathability.

Levi Strauss has recently lanched its Dockers proStyle(TM) collection of casual business menswear. The collection makes use of both the Nano-Touch as well as Nano-Dry nanotechnology innovations from NanoTex to protect the fabric in the garments from water-based stains. Other notable companies to use nanotechnology solutions from Nano-Tex are Nike®, Champion®, Kathmandusm and Sleepmaker®.

Source: NanoVic

For more information on this source please visit NanoVic.

Date Added: Jul 11, 2006 | Updated: Jun 11, 2013
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