Introduction to nanotechnology in fashion and textile industry

What is nanotechnology in fashion?

Follow the new series of posts discussing nanotechnology in the textile industry whereof the mission is to provide quality information for those who are not so familiar with the prefix of nano and its terminology. The first part: Introduction to the nanoworld in fashion, discuss briefly Nano history, nanotechnology, nanoscale and nanoscience issues (all these terms can be found in the Eco Fashion Dictionary.

Dear readers, I have unfortunately not been able to post last few weeks due to the fact that green thinking seldom pays my bills and services elsewhere required my attention (been traveling). However, I been able to write an introduction on a vast subject within science, textile engineering and surface design of apparel clothing. Industrial applications of nanomaterials can be found in a wide variety of branches. Most people would be familiar with health care and electronics. However, apparel industry benefits greatly with synthetic textiles incorporating nanotechnology that enable fabric with self-cleaning properties. Antibacterial, water-proof and flame retardants are becoming mainstream. With the rapid development of new solution’s textiles within nanotechnology, this series of posts will provide basic information with an eye on fashion for those consumers who are not so familiar with the prefix of nano, and how material properties at nanoscale are behaving very different than in the macro world. Nanotechnology will not only change the fashion industry buy almost any era of manufacturing of commercialized products and services ahead. With more than 50,000 nanotechnology articles published annually worldwide in recent years, and increasingly 2,500 patents are filed at major patent office’s such as European Patent Office to say that nanotechnology is an emerging field of scientifically research. See graphic four generation of Nano products at the end of the post.

Although the term “nanotechnology” is now used to describe a broad and diverse range of scientific, areas, it was originally used to describe a brand-new way of manufacturing first articulated by the physicist Richard Feynman in his now-famous – speech given 1959 at Caltech entitled, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”; that molecular machines should be able to build substances by mechanically placing each atom into position exactly as specified. Nevertheless, the word “nanotechnology’’ was first used to illustrate for very accurate materials with high endurance less than a micrometre limit by Professor Norio Taniguchi in 1974.

Around 1980 came an important invention the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM), which made further exploration into the nanoworld possible. Use of the term microscope is actually wrong as a regular microscope cannot resolve features in the nanoscale, a better word is Nanoscope, which is a device to make objects at nanoscale visible. Later that decade, in 1986 did K. Eric Drexler put new meaning into the word in his book Engines of creation: The coming era of nanotechnology’’. He has furthermore explored profoundly nanotechnology, particularly in his thesis ‘‘Nanosystems Molecular Machinery and Computation. Since nanotechnology almost can be applied to any kind of manufacturing it’s covers vast field of sciences and industries, therefore, this and following post in the series ”nanotechnology in fashion garment industry” will cover the most fundamental nano-terms and issues within textile and clothing segment. In addition, discuss some ultimate issues regarding the environmental and human risk of this promising science. Nanotechnology is not something that is happening in the future is happening in our daily life’s today, with now thousands of commercial products that are using some form of nano-technological application or products.

What is nanotechnology?

The “nano” in nanotechnology comes from the Greek word nanos, which means dwarf or study of very small objects. Research in nanotechnology can be described as all activities at the level of atoms and molecules that have applications in the real world. Nano objects are measured after a scale system called nanometre, which is a billionth of a metre or as scientists use this prefix to indicate 10–9 (one billionth) or explained nanometre as ten atoms of hydrogen placed in a row.

For almost 30 years, has the growing semiconductor industry been running the nano show, most of the development within have micro and nano fabrication techniques. The microelectronic revolution of placing many transistors on to a silicon wafer has made it possible for manufacturing of products such as personal computers, digital pads, PDA, mobile phones, watches, calculators, sensors, etc. Nanotechnology is now used in material development, precision engineering, electronics, computer’s chips, clothing,biomedical applications, drug delivery, remote sensing, micro optics, applications such as electro-mechanical systems (NEMS) and numbers of others. The fascination for the nano world has created an nearly mythical aura and fantasy world among people whereof the forecast of nanotechnology range from the next industrial revolution to be seen as a bigger threat to humanity than the atom bomb. With great help of media have nanotechnology by some been praised and gained almost religious status seen as the future salvation of humanity, while others fear the environmental consequences of apocalyptic dimensions. This is, however, not strange as investments into its technology have nearly reached the same dimensions as described above.

Global investments and demand in nanotechnology

It’s hard to find reliable information on how big global investment in nanotechnologies, particular in the private sector, nevertheless; the importance of nanotechnology is clearly high. In 2003 the total demand for everything’s nano such as material, tools and devices was estimated $ 5-8 billion with a growth rate of 30% yearly. Without anything taken for granted, this information should imply spending of nearly $30 billion in 2008. The market for nanotechnology-related textiles reached $13.6 billion in 2007 and is predicted about $115 billion by 2012 according to the book “New-product development product development in textile’s Innovation and production published 2012 by Woodhead Publishing Limited. Nanotechnology is a priority in the United States innovation strategy, and in support of the President has the Federal Budget since 2001 spend almost total of $21 billion, whereof they provide around $1.5 billion for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) 2015, according to the official site Research from 2008, shows that nanotechnology has a high priority also in other competing markets such as European Union (EU) invested around $1.7 billion and Japan $950 million (Nanotechnology research and development). Other Asian countries on the nano-bandwagon, China’s investment around $430 million, Korea $310 million and Taiwan $110 million. The same years spend US government $1.55 billion

What is Nanoscience?

According to the Royal Academy of Engineering (2004), the term nanoscience is defined as “the study of phenomena and manipulation of materials at atomic, molecular, and macromolecular scales, where the properties of materials differ markedly from those at a larger scale.” Rather than a new specific area of science, nanoscience is a brand-new way of thinking. Its revolutionary potential lies in its intrinsic multidisciplinary, not in the view of one single theoretical direction or one particular approach, but the merge and combination across fields of science and industries at very high levels of technological skills; nano-tribology, nano-biochemistry, nanofibre engineering, nanomaterial science, its development and successes strongly depend on efforts from, and fruitful interactions among, physics, chemistry, mathematics, life sciences, and engineering.

The field of nanotechnology can be broadly classified into three different types such as:

  • Incremental nanotechnology
    Incremental nanotechnology is defined as manipulating and controlling the basic structure of materials at nanoscale with the mission to enhance their properties such as nanostructured plastics with superior strength and nanocomposites that have improved hardness and permeability. Examples of products such as sunscreen protection
  • Evolutionary nanotechnology
    Evolutionary nanotechnology can be described as materials and devices at nanoscale with high-performance capacity more advanced than the basic segment of nanoproducts. Products within the evolutionary nanotechnology group include flash memory chips (iPod), carbon nanotube based medical diagnosis, treatment devices and DNA micro-arrays.
  • Radical nanotechnology
    Radical nanotechnology is recognized by using multidisciplinary approaches such as information technology, material science, biotechnology, nanotribology etc. developing highly sophisticated products such as nanomaterials with chemical and biological protection.

Making the invisible visible

Getting access to the nano world is actually impossible as the smallest object that the human eye can detect has dimensions of around 50 microns, even if we were only 10 microns high, nano-objects would not be perceivable (graphic presentation on light wavelength) In fact, they are not observable to anybody, not in spite of, in principle, as they are smaller than a single wavelength of visible light. Therefore, images with three-dimensional structure, changes in reflectance “caused by” changes in contour, and so on made by artists or any other graphics even images created for scientific consumption by software developed to produce visuals from microscopes. So actually how far should science “Disneyfied” images of an invisible world? This raises many interesting questions as we do not know if the effect of this nanotechnology particle’s long-term effect on human health and environment. Check out my personal collection of nano inspired geometrics and patterns at Google cultural Institute

  • New millennium fibres by Tatsuya Hongu, Glyn O. Phillips and Machiko Takigami. Published 2005 by Woodhead Publishing Limited
  • New product development in textiles Innovation and production, edited by L. Horne. Published 2012 by Woodhead Publishing Limited
  • Handbook of nanoscience, engineering, and technology, editors William A. Goddard , Donald Brenner, Sergey E. Lyshevski, Gerald J. Iafrate. Published 2007 by CRS Press.
  • Nanofibers and nanotechnology in textiles, edited by P. J. Brown and K. Stevens. Published 2007 by Woodhead publishing limited
  • Textile design principles, advances and applications, edited by A. Briggs-Goode and K. Townsend. Published 2011 by Woodhead Publishing Limited
  • Molecular manufacturing for clean, low cost textile production David R.Forrest, Naval Surface Warfare Center, West Bethesda, Maryland USA and Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, Los Altos, California USA
  • Advances in polymer nanocomposites types and applications, edited by Fengge Gao. Published 2012 by Woodhead Publishing Limited
  • Modeling Nanoscale Imaging in Electron Microscopy, editors Thomas Vogt Wolfgang Dahmen
  • Optical biomimetics, Published 2012 by Woodhead Publishing Limited
  • Fabrics and new product development Woodhead Publishing Limited, 2012
  • There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom Richard P. Feynman 1959. Feynman’s talk here
  • “Institute for molecular manufacturing” href=”” target=”_blank”>Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
  • Woodhead Publishing Limited
  • K E Drexler home page
  • Nano investments
  • Feynman’s talk Feynman’s talk here
  • Textile future 2011 vimeo<


Kenneth Lyngaas
Sustainable fashion designer & eco-philosopher Sustainable fashion dedicated the twenty-first century green living, design for change through system thinking, eco philosophy, spirituality and sustainability. Site made with passion for people who loves fashion and care for the environment.
Kenneth Lyngaas
Kenneth Lyngaas
Kenneth Lyngaas
sustainableFASHION// dedicated the twenty-first century sustainable community and living. Every day, I deliver selected news on Eco design across the Internet. Most people appreciate an update without searching latest news themselves. Therefore, it’s already served. Don’t miss it, subscribe!
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