Nanotechnology in the textile and fashion business. Part II



The first post discussed “introduction to nanotechnology” “how small” are materials, in reality, at nanoscale? Getting access to the nanoworld is impossible for the smallest object humans possible can detect has dimensions of around 50 microns, even if human was miniaturized down to only 10 microns high, nano-objects would not be perceivable. Despite, the fact that these objects are not observable to anybody (because they are smaller than a single wavelength of visible light) images presented in media often have a three-dimensional structure, theme-park reminding bright colours with changes in reflectance, this gives a wrong and misleading perception. The real danger of nanotechnology is unknown, since we do not know the long-term effect on human health and environment: how far should science go making nanoworld images look as “Disneyland of an invisible world?


Is Nanotechnology a saviour for the developed country’s textile industry?


In the beginning of the 1990s became known technology within textile manufacturing, finishing and requirement of automation recognized by a high degree of standardization globally. Technological progress was no longer only for the rich countries. Companies within the industry ended up with hardly any competitive advantages differentiating than cost. Caught in an industrial maturity trap became well established textile companies under immense pressure as new competitors seize market share. A shift in manufacturing happened whereby the same service could be provided by a growing number of providers with lower cost. Fashion became more a standardized commodity recognized by mainstream manufacturing as the loss of competitiveness among established textile companies forced labour and factories to close in many places in US and Europe, mainly.

The need for a paradigm shift was identified by the European community with the introduction of the New Textile Technology Platform in 2004, which analysed growth areas for the European textile industry: one of these brand-new areas were incorporation of nanotechnology and flexible microelectronics into apparel and fashion garments. These technologies open up brand new possibilities for the industry and is a move away from traditional mainstream manufacturing (particularly in Europe) whereby finding a competitive advantage to become crucial. To understand better why nanotechnology can bring these innovations to the market it’s important to know more about what makes this technology so unique and how material properties can behave different at a very small scale compared to objects at the human scale.



What is Nanoscale?

The scale of nanotechnology is a general term identified from relate to objects from 1 to 100 nm. Thus a nanosecond is one billionth of one second; a nanometre (nm) is one billionth of one metre, and so on. Objects that can be classified as having something to do with nanotechnology are larger than atoms but much smaller than we can perceive directly with our senses. Nanoscale is usually characterized fibres less than 100 nm in diameter and film’s thickness less than 100 nm…

However, in the fibre industry, there is no commonly accepted definition of nanofibres as it ranges from below 100 nm to 500 nm depending on the different book authors, but most commonly nanofibre is defined to measure 500 nm, or less. It’s not easy to imagine how tiny objects are at this level. It might help visualize it as small as a virus or compare with other objects well-known. Imagine a diameter of hair straw, one nanometre is about 1/75000 of a human hair. This is approximately a tennis or football compared to earth, or one nanometre is as large as your nail grows in one second.


Nanomaterials properties at Nanoscale

Nanomaterials are the novel engineered formed materials and fabric’s constructions at a nanometric scale. At this scale, completely new and different material property is likely, assembled with extremely accurate measurements at atomic level devices, materials and fabrics that are 100 times stronger than steel. Simultaneously elastic and low weight has been made possible. Applications of nanotechnology in manufacture range from simple medicine and bandages with no need to renewal, analyzing of environmental pollution and early diagnose of cancer cells.

The design of nano technology, production (synthesis) and application of nanomaterials, nanostructures and advanced macro- and micro-systems at the nanometre level, stretching from sub-nanometre to many micrometres or hundred nanometres miniaturization material properties can behave in a novel way and significantly different for objects at macro scale. Gaining a fundamental understanding what the nanoscale structure does (in terms of behavior or phenomena) is the core of nanoscience and is extremely important for nanotechnology. Among the most well-known kinds of materials categorized and identified in the field of nanomaterials are as follows:


  • Nanofibre
  • Nanoparticle
  • Nanocomposite
  • Nano-porous material
  • Nanostructured material
  • Nano-fullerens
  • Nanowires
  • Carbon nanotubes single wall and multi-wall
  • Quantum dots
  • Thin films
  • Molecular electricity

Development of Nanofibre and their ripple effect

Nanotechnology has already been introduced for quite some time in the textile industry, some of the most well-known materials at nanoscale used in textile production are nanofibre, carbon nanotubes, nanoparticles (metal and oxide), nanosilver, nanocapsules, etc. The massive research into nanomaterials happens across industries and scientific fields of knowledge, therefore, being fully updated is hardly possible. The rapidly progress combined with its multi-disciplinary need of sciences is what makes nanotechnology extraordinary. However, the use of nanotechnology-based finishes to enhance the performance of textiles made from natural fibres (including cotton, wool and silk) and also from synthetic fibres (such as polyester and nylon) is growing fast


The methodology of nano manufacturing at nanoscale can be made in two ways, either from the top down, by machining to smaller and smaller dimension, or from the bottom-up exploring the capability of biological systems as molecules to self-assemble micro structures.

Top-down methodology are recognized by approaching the nanoscale from the top or larger dimension. This included technologies such as nano-imprinting, lithography and scanning probe. This process took place in the mechanical world, using machinery to produce small structures such as micro-chip.

Bottom-up approach aims to guide the assembly of atomic and molecular constituents into organized surface structures through processes inherent in the manipulated system. A bottom-up approach (self-assembly processes) is a term used to describe one of two ways to fabricate nanometre size elements of integrated electronic circuits. This is by building nanostructures from atoms and molecules by their precise positioning on a substrate. Hence a single device level is constructed upward. Self-regulating processes like self-assembling and self-organization, and atomic engineering are used for this. The alternative is a top-down approach. The bottom-up approach has the potential to go far beyond the limits of top-down technology by producing nanoscale features through synthesis and subsequent. Thus, the development of a viable cost-effective bottom-up self-assembly nanofabrication process that allows billions of nano components to be assembled into a higher-order structure still remains a considerable challenge.



Self-assembly (also called Brownian assembly) is a term used to describe a spontaneous organization of individual pre-existing components into an ordered structure without human or supernatural invention. Self-assembly is generally considered a reversible process, tune-able by varying a thermodynamically parameter such as density or temperature, and one that can be controlled through judicious design of the components.r, self-assembly is a fundamental principle which generates structural organization on different scales, from a molecule (random motion of molecules) to galaxy’s. Take, for example, how the nature builds the perfect structure in a shell or the clear visible colour of the Morpho butterfly can be spotted from a long distance, yet no pigment or dyes is the reason but structure scales covering the wings. Furthermore, known as structural colours. The elaborate architecture of nature’s optical structures at nanoscale is simply impossible to copy with current engineering techniques, even so. The Japanese textile company Teijin Fibers Limited  has to succeed making individual reflectors based on the structure of the Morpho butterfly wings.

Two kinds of self-assembly:

  • Static self-assembly happens when it does dissipate energy and involve systems that are at global or local equilibrium.
  • Dynamic self-assembly happens only if the system is dissipating energy.

Self-assembly applications

  • Crystallization at all scales
  • Robotics and manufacturing
  • Nanoscience and technology
  • Microelectronics
  • Netted systems

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