You may not realise it, but the clothing you wear to work may contain nanotechnology. If your staff clothing protects you from various hazards, stays fresh for days after laundering, keeps moisture away from your body or allows you to wear fewer layers, it likely contains nanotechnology.
Nanofibres are the key to the versatility of much of today’s work wear. These fibres are comprised of a PP core coated with a PP/silver sheath. Nanofibre particles have an average size of 30nm. The PP/silver combination provides these garments with excellent antibacterial properties, specifically for Microorganisms like Staphylococcus aureus. Other such fibres may contain microcapsules, which prevent the growth of bacteria on fabric by releasing anti-microbial agents. Odour-absorbing clothing uses this same technology.
Nanofibres are constructed to not only be lightweight, but durable as well as multi-functional. Polymers can be mixed with various elements as well as have other features embedded like antibacterial protection and flame-retardant properties. Unlike other similar coatings that can wash off or wear with time, nanotechnology allows them to become a part of the fabric itself.
Electrospun nanofibres are 20 to 200nm in size. The process allows for the customising of nanofibre membranes that are not woven. The Nanofibre membrane is an example of this process. These products are as thin as paper, and consist of fibres that are randomly laid. Nanofibre membranes allow for the high transmission of moisture vapour, as well as high absorbency and the ability to hold chemically functional groups in large numbers.
There are several products available today that contain something called nano-finish. Nano-finish makes fabric resistant to water using surface tension. You can see this effect on items like umbrellas, where rain forms ‘beads’ on the surface and quickly roll off the material. However, nano-finish also has other properties; specifically, stain and wrinkle resistance.
The key to the effectiveness of nano-finish is in its construction. ‘Nano- whiskers’ contain spaces between them that are smaller than drops of water, causing an inability for absorption. In addition, this technology allows the garment to repel dirt and other materials which may adhere to non-nano fabrics.
Function and Comfort
Nanotechnology offers comfort in addition to the properties that make it easier to care for. Some products are wrapped with durable synthetic fibres to provide the feel of soft cotton and other materials.
Another example of function meeting comfort is clothing that enables clothing to be able to function with electronics. Today’s wearer can wear their audio, computer and even their mobile phones and health technology in a glove or coat. This technology allows for access to wireless technology, allowing the wearer to interact with devices that may be located in their car or their home remotely.
Today’s nanofibre clothing is not only functional, but it is also fashionable. Indeed, it can be very difficult to tell a garment containing nanotechnology from its non-Nano counterpart. Today’s Nano garments are colourful and fashionable. The future of this particular feature may be clothing which changes colour depending on direction of light, observer perspective and brightness of light.
Nanofibre technology continues its development. However, what does the future look like? Continued development in this field could very well lead to composites that are lighter and stronger than ever, allowing for the potential creation of other types of garments, such as bullet-proof vests.
Indeed, the future may reveal a world where rips and tears in fabric repair themselves, and the colour of the garments we wear can instantly change to match our surroundings, much like many species in nature already do.