Nano-textiles are an emerging and interesting application of nanotechnology. It involves dealing with nano fibers at the atomic and molecular levels in order to tweak their properties. This novel technology can give rise to incredible clothing such as water-resistant and dirt-free clothes, odor-less socks, and intelligent clothes that can perform climate control for you.
Nano Hydro Fabric Coating: The ever-increasing demand for sophisticated fabrics with special features and exceptional comfort drives the need for the use of nanotechnology in this industry. More and more companies are utilizing nanoadditives to enhance the surface characteristics of clothes such as water/stain-resistance, UV-protection, wrinkle resistance, color durability, flame retardancy, and better thermal performance.
Although these Nanofabrics are antimicrobial, strong and intelligent, they also pose some risks to the user and the environment. In the following sections, we will discuss some of their innovative applications and also environmental risks.
The field of Nanofabric is incredibly large with many different flavors and forms. One type of Nanofabric is formed by applying commercially available nano-engineered finishing treatments to ordinary textiles and the variety is wide, from carpet and clothing to medical fabrics and mosquito netting.
The finishing treatments have elements sized in the 1-100 nanometer scale and are assembled in an orderly fashion, creating novel properties that differ from the bulk material, and are considered nanotechnology.
Repellency, stain-release, odor elimination, moisture elimination, anti-static, and wrinkle-free are some of the properties implemented using nanotechnology and engineering in these coating agents or finishing processes.
Although these properties are not new, Nanofabric finishes offer improvements over conventional finishes, which exhibit random orientation after they are applied. In conventional finishes, only a small percentage of coating materials touch the fibers, and most of it is bonded to itself, resulting in lost effectiveness as the coating wears away with time.
Nanofabric coatings create fabrics whose fibers have better durability and wear ability, and less coating material is needed compared to conventional finishes due to the ordered structure. Most importantly, the technology becomes part of the fabric itself, so the effect is more permanent.
Liquid finishing chemistries are sold to textile manufacturers who apply them to fabrics in standard manufacturing lines. With some finishes, chemical or nano-engineered elements permanently attach to natural or synthetic fibers at the molecular level by a series of chemical reactions in which they arrange to an ordered state.
An ordinary fabric (or yarn, fiber, finished, or non-woven good or textile) is exposed to a liquid solution, put through rollers to squeeze out excess, and is dried and “cured” with heat. The heat of the curing processes activates chemical reactions that cause chemicals to orient and attach to fibers. The resulting fabric has different characteristics than before treatment.
Since the curing temperatures driving the reactions for attachment to a fiber are hotter than those found in a typical home tumble dryer or clothes iron, these finishing liquids will not be available for home or consumer application any time soon.
“Wrinkle-free” treatments aim to retain a fiber’s flexibility and shape. One approach to creating a treatment that maintains a fiber’s original orientation and smooth appearance is to provide a physical structure around a fiber that has lots of “give,” so when fibers are pulled, they react with high degrees of flexion instead of demonstrating a brittle response.
Chemical chains can be created with physical structures similar to loops so fibers can maintain flexibility under tension and can be pulled further without breaking. By using small chemical chains that are able to penetrate deeply into the fiber, more structure can be provided to each fiber, creating better performance.
As we push the limits of our thinking on nano-fabrics and nano-coatings, it may begin to sound like something out of science fiction. But, putting this into perspective, the ideas I mention below are not as far out as some may think.
1. Nano-Netting – Using super strong fibers so small that they are invisible to the human eye, nano-netting will provide a fibrous support structure that is visually non-intrusive but capable of keeping out insects, birds, and other unwanted animals. The density of the netting can be adjusted to match specific requirements. Objects can be suspended in air with seemingly invisible support. Invisible fences, invisible screens, and invisible cars and windmills will all be possible.
2. Liquid Shells – Ultra-fine shells will be created for liquid products sold in retail stores. These shells will range from completely flexible to totally rigid, with some offering a shape changing option to better accommodate the particular space needs of an individual. Alternatively, water, soft drinks, energy drinks, wine, beer, and a variety of other drinkable liquids will begin to experiment with “one gulp” or “quarter gulp” micro containers. Containers with sixteen one ounce, gulp packs will make it easy to pop a quick drink into someone’s mouth.
3. Indestructible Coatings – Bearings that never wear out, highways that never deteriorate, and buildings that last forever are the promise of indestructible coatings. But indestructible materials will lead to indestructible trash some day. So every durable coating will need an “off” switch.
4. Food Coatings – Based on an individual’s dietary requirements, food particles will be coated in a way to increase or decrease the body’s absorption rate. Smart surface coatings will be able to anticipate the digestive system’s reaction to a certain food, and adjust the coating interface accordingly. Losing weight will be easy when we make it less digestible.
5. Organ-View Clothing – As part of our on-going effort to monitor our own biological functions, it may be possible to design a fabric that serves as an optical lens into our inner selves. Think of this as a wearable CAT scan system with variable-adjust focal point settings, zoom powers down to a near-nano scale, and flexible data-capture sensors built-in. The fashion options here will be incredible.
6. Memory Inducer Coatings – A specialized coating placed on a product will activate a person’s senses in a way to link the product with positive memories. Simply touching the surface will trigger a series of images and memories inside a person’s brain. As an example, some people will smell fresh baked pie, others will hear a song that reminds them of their mother, and still others will feel like a warm blanket has been draped over their shoulders on a cool fall evening. This kind of coating will take the experience marketing industry to a whole new level.
7. Self-Moving Fabrics – It will no longer be good enough for smart fabrics to merely collect and transmit information, the next generation will have the ability to take action. Dirty clothes will pick up after themselves, snuggly fitting shirts and pants will readjust themselves for maximum comfort, and torn clothing will send them out for repair. Beds will make themselves, sheets will change themselves according to a set rotation, and pillows will have the ability to sense pressure points and reform themselves accordingly.
8. Super Skin Coatings – If you can imagine a flexible skin coating that will allow us to swim to depths of 2,000 feet or more below the ocean surface, walk across the surface of the moon without a suit, enter into caustic chemical environments unphased, and survive a nuclear blast, then you have the idea of what super skin coating will be like.