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Nanotechnology Gains Traction in Technical Textiles
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Nanotechnology Gains Traction in Technical Textiles

Written by: The Stitch Times

Overthe last decade, nanotechnology has found its way into almost all sectors.Nano-layers are finding applications in wind turbines to improve theaerodynamics and prevent surface icing. Moreover, microelectronics these daysare largely nano-electronics.

Inaddition to that, carbon nanostructures are now being used in the developmentof lightweight building materials. Just in terms of their applications inmedicine, pharmaceuticals and medical technology along, predictions are fordouble-digit growth. But nanotechnology has enormous potential for range ofapplications is as large as that of the textiles themselves.

InGermany, the topic forms an increasingly important focus for the work of themajor textile research institutes. For the textile sector has also recognizedthe potential for nanotechnology. Apparel textiles, with dirt- andwater-resistant nano finishes, are already widespread, especially in sports andoutdoor wear. Textiles with anti-bacterial qualities, based on the use ofsilver nanoparticles, have also found their way onto the market. Moreover,rapidly advancing research is opening new horizons all the time.


Theanti-bacterial textiles we are talking about are optimized for use in thehealthcare sector as a weapon in the fight against the spread ofantibiotic-resistant germs. Other possibilities for medical applications ofnano textiles include surgical bandages that can be removed without leaving anyresidual traces. These can be made from a nonwoven fabric of bio-compatiblenanofibre or in the form of sticking plasters that imitate the well-knowntechnique that a geckos foot uses to cling on.

Atthe Institute for Textile Machinery and High-Performance Materials Technologyat the Technical University of Dresden, nanofibres made of biopolymers areformed into nonwoven fabric, which are due to come into use in regenerativemedicine as so-called scaffolds. These form a structural basis for thecultivation of cells with the aim of creating artificial tissue that can beused for implant purposes.


Nonwovensmade with nanofibres can also be used in filter technology; both when filteringthe ambient air in buildings and for filtering liquids. They are cpaapble ofretaining even the smallest particles, right down to nanoparticles.



Doctors are agreed that clothing with a high level of UV protection can significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer. Here, too, nanotechnology offers a variety of approaches to solutions. Textile coatings containing nanoparticles of titanium oxide or zinc oxide have, thanks to their huge total surface area, an enormous ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation. At the North West German Textile Research Centre sol-gel coatings, based on nano-sized zinc oxide particles, have been developed and can be applied using conventional methods such as dipping and spraying. The completely wash-resistant layer not only significantly improves UV protection, it also improves resistance to abrasion, whilst having virtually no effect on the degree of whiteness of the fabric.

Nanoparticles can also be used to improve the dimensional stability and wear-resistance of man-made fibres, which are subject to high levels of mechanical stress or direct sunlight, as, for instance, in car seats. This topic is the subject of a research project at the Denkendorf Institute for Textile Chemistry and Chemical Fibres in collaboration with various partners, including the proudly traditional company, ETTLIN Textiles, and the textile-processing company, Lindenfarb Textilveredlung Julius Probst. The polyamide-fibre products which have been optimized using nano-sized additives will be capable in future of being processed on traditional machines without any major technical changes.


Textile in polyester have only limited moisture-absorbing and water retaining capabilities, which make them more difficult to wash and limit their range of applications from a technical point of view. Working with a number of other partners, research and development staff from the German Institute for Wool Research at Aachen University and from the companies, Wirth Fulda and Markische Faser, have achieved significant improvements in the hydrophilic properties of polyester fabrics.

Using a nanometer-thin polyamine coating, it has proved possible to increase the water absorbency of PET microfiber fabrics by up to 40 percent by weight compared to the original material. Wash ability and wash-resistance have also been significantly improved, with simultaneous cost reductions as against traditional solutions. Suppliers for the motor vehicle industry should benefit from this improvement as much as apparel manufacturers.



Carbon nanotubes can be embedded in antistatic clothing and packaging fabrics, as in protective suits for clean rooms or for blast protection, for example. They are already playing an important role in multifunctional technical textiles with improved mechanical, electrical and shielding properties. The stability of textile reinforcements in constructional engineering can be improved using nano coatings as can the flame resistance and dye ability of technical textiles and clothing fabrics. And there are many other examples that could be included here.

The multitude of possible applications and on-going development projects lead us to expect that nanotechnology will soon be a central feature of the textile industry.

This article was originally published in the Stitch Times magazine, June, 2013 issue.

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