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Nanotechnology has recently brought immense improvement in the textile industry. The unique properties of nanomaterials are applied in an efficient manner by textile engineers and scientists, and it has gained enormous attention in the commercial market for their huge economic benefits.
Production of Specialized Fabrics Using Nanotechnology
Nanomaterials in textiles have proved to be immensely valuable for the manufacturing of protective garments for workers involved in emergency services such as military personnel, firefighters and medical workers.
There are different methods for the production of nanoengineered textiles. For example, sometimes synthesized nanoparticles are incorporated into the fibers or textiles.
Nanoparticles are also applied as a coating on the surface of the finished product. There are also different coating techniques such as sol-gel, plasma polymerization and layer-by-layer that are used in the application of nanoparticles onto textile fibers.
These techniques can enhance durability and are also capable of making the fabric resistant to extreme weather conditions. The composition of nanocoating materials, such as surfactants and carrier medium, can alter the surface texture of fabrics.
A nanofiber is produced by the electrospinning method and split spinning process. Nano-fibers possess multifunctional properties such as good filtration, high surface area, high permeability, small fiber diameter, and thin layers. These fabrics are able to filter toxic gasses, pathogens (bacteria, viruses), and harmful substances present in the air.
The nanoparticles being evenly distributed in polymer matrices imparts toughness and abrasion resistance to the fabrics. Nanofibers can also enhance the tensile strength of composite fibers.
A nanocomposite is made up of a mixture of two or more different substances of nanometer size. This technique helps in the production of fabrics with improved electrical, mechanical, optical, and biological properties.
The technique enables the production of communicating textiles, chromatic textiles, conductive textiles, warming and cooling textiles, textile sensors, and digital fashion. Metal ions and static electricity play a crucial role in imparting sterilizing properties to fabrics.
The anti-static property of nano-based fibers helps to repel statically attractive substances such as lint, dog hair, and dust. Carbon black nanoparticles and carbon nanofibers are effective reinforcing materials for composite fibers.
Find out more about nanoparticle characterization systems
Application of Nano-Based Fabrics
Medical Uses: Fabrics are engineered so that they can be used for drug delivery and wound healing. Silver nanoparticles possess antimicrobial properties. Therefore, silver nanoparticles are extensively used in products related to dressings for burns and scald. Nano-engineered fabrics are also used to screen heart rate, body temperature, and breathing rhythm.
Military Uses: Production of fabrics that are lightweight but show a high degree of resistance to extreme temperatures, durable, antibacterial activity, improved camouflage, water-resistant, and embedded with multipurpose nanosensors. The textiles also possess high anti-ballistic flame-retardant and RF-shielding properties. Such characteristics are ideal for military usage.
- Antiwrinkle cotton fabric: For cotton fabrics, wrinkle resistance can be developed by using the nano-engineered cross-linking agents during the fabric finishing process. Besides the wrinkle resistance, such finishing is also capable of eliminating toxic gases, while preserving the preferred comfort properties of cotton.
- Odor-free fabric: Application of silver nanoparticles on fabrics prevent the nasty odor caused due to the microbial activity. Many companies use fabrics coated with silver nanoparticles to develop odor-free clothing, such as stockings, socks, and undergarments. Korean-based Hyosung develops nylon fibers containing silver nanoparticles that reduce 99.9% growth of several harmful bacteria.
- Water-resistant fabric: Silica nanoparticles create a water-resistant coating when inserted into the fabric or sprayed onto the fabric surface.
- Ultraviolet-protective fabric: When inserted into fabrics, nanoparticles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide protect the skin from sun damage. These nanoparticles have the ability to scatter the ultraviolet light present in the sun’s rays, reducing the risk of skin diseases linked to UV exposure.
Is it Safe to Use Nanomaterials in Our Clothing?
While addressing the frequently asked question regarding the safety of nanomaterials in our clothing, Natalie von Goetz from the Swiss University ETH Zürich stated that under laboratory conditions, no nanoparticles were found in the perspiration of the test person wearing fabric coated with titanium dioxide nanoparticles. This is regarded as a positive result and supports the usage of nanoparticles in clothing.
However, Rickard Arvidsson from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, reflects upon the problem with nanoparticle incorporation in textiles. He expressed that even though silver nanoparticles are non-toxic to human beings, it could be very toxic to aquatic life.
His research proposed that the enormous use of silver nanomaterial in clothing can lead to high concentrations of silver in the sludge from wastewater treatment plants that could ultimately have ill effects on aquatic animals.
Find out more about nanofiber production equipment
Some Companies Associated with the Production of Nanofabrics
Nano Textile: This nano-based textile company was found in 2013 in Israel. Nano Textile established a single step nano-coating method that coats textiles with zinc oxide, thereby imparting permanent antibacterial properties to the fabric. The technique is economical and environmentally friendly. The treatment is extended to many types of fabrics such as synthetic, cotton, silk, etc.
GoGoNano: This company is involved in producing nano-coating sprays for electronics, textiles, and cars. GoGoNano also manufactures carpets, shoes, and clothes with superhydrophobic, and bacteria-resistant properties.
Nano-Tex: This is a leading nanotechnology-based textile company, headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, MI, with production, quality and R&D facilities in Hong Kong and Kings Mountain, NC; and technical support staff based in China, India, and the US. Nano-Tex has recently proclaimed partnerships with other leading textile companies such as Designtex, Architex, Arc-Com, Carnegie, and Kravet.
References and Further Reading
Bereznenko, S., Bereznenko, N., Skyba, M., et al. (2020) A novel equipment for making nanocomposites for investigating the antimicrobial properties of nanotextiles. International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology. Vol. Ahead of Print. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCST-07-2019-0107
Mahmud, R. and Nabi, F. (2017). Application of Nanotechnology in the field of Textile. Journal of Polymer and Textile Engineering. 4 (1), 1-6. Available at: http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jpte/papers/Vol4-Issue1/A04010106.pdf
Nanalyze (2018) 7 Startups Innovating in Nano Clothing Technologies. [Online] Available at: https://www.nanalyze.com/2018/02/7-startups-nano-clothing-technologies/ (Accessed on 28 May 2020).