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What is Nanotechnology in fashion?

Follow the new series of posts discussing nanotechnology in the textile industry of which 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 (terms described in the Eco-Fashion Encyclopedia). Industrial applications of Nanomaterials can be found in a wide variety of branches. Most people would be familiar with healthcare and electronics.  However, also the apparel industry benefits greatly — especially synthetic textiles are incorporating Nanotechnology that enables fabrics with Self-cleaning properties, Antibacterial, Water-proof and Flame retardants are becoming mainstream.

Prefix of Nano

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 the Nanoscale are behaving very different than in the macro world. Nanotechnology will not only change the fashion industry but almost any era of manufacturing. 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 scientifical research (graphics four generations of Nanoproducts).

Physicist Richard Feynman

Although 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”. He describes molecular machines should be able to build substances by mechanically placing each atom into position exactly as specified.

The invention of the scanning tunnelling microscope

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 a vital invention the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM), which made a further exploration into the Nanoworld possible. Use of the term microscope is not right 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 Nanotechnology, particularly in his thesis ‘‘Nanosystems Molecular Machinery and Computation” since nanotechnology applies to all kinds of manufacturing, including a vast field of sciences. The series of posts Nanotechnology in the fashion industry cover essential Nanoterms. And discuss some ultimate issues regarding the environmental and human risk of the 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.


Graphics Kenneth Buddha Jeans. Concept system of Nanotechnology

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 describes all activities at the level of atoms and molecules that have applications in the real world. Nano-objects measured after a scale system called Nanometre. A 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 Nanofabrication 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 applies in material development, precision engineering, electronics, computer’s chips, clothing, biomedical applications, drug delivery, remote sensing, micro-optics, applications such as electromechanical systems (NEMS) and numbers of others.

The fascinating Nanoworld

The fascination for the Nanoworld has created a nearly mythical aura and fantasy world among people of which the forecast of nanotechnology range from the next industrial revolution seen as a bigger threat to humanity than the atom bomb. With the 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.

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 high. In 2003 the total demand for everything’s Nano such as material, tools, and devices was estimated at 8 billion with a growth rate of 30 per cent yearly. Without anything taken for granted, this information should imply spending of nearly billion in 2008. The market for Nanotechnology-related textiles between 2007 and 2011 was close to a quarter of a trillion USD, the EU alone invested approximately EUR 896 million in Nanotechnology-related research (source Product development in textile’s Innovation and production published in 2012 by Woodhead Publishing Limited). Research 2008 shows Nanotechnology has a high priority also in other competing markets besides the US and European Union (EU), for example, Japan €846.54 million (source Nanotechnology research and development). Other Asian countries on the Nano-bandwagon, China’s investment around €383.17 million, Korea €276.24 million and Taiwan €98.02 million.


Graphics Kenneth Buddha Jeans. Timeline of four generations of Nanoproducts

What is Nanoscience?

According to the Royal Academy of Engineering (2004), the term Nanoscience defined; “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.

Nanoscale the invisible world

Getting access to the Nanoworld is 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 the 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? It raises many interesting questions as we do not know if the long-term effect of Nanotechnology particle has on human health and the environment.


Google Art Nanotechnology in the Fashion Industry? Visual Geometrics and Patterns Research

Visit Google Art & Culture Nano inspired visuals found in the world of art, patterns, repetitions, structures and geometrics recognised in the natural world. It gives an idea of the structures in Nanotechnology and the invisible world


The field of Nanotechnology broadly classified into three types:

  • Incremental Nanotechnology
  • Evolutionary Nanotechnology
  • Radical Nanotechnology
Incremental Nanotechnology
  • Incremental nanotechnology is defined as manipulating and controlling the basic structure of materials at the 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 the 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.
Sources and Useful Information
  • 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
  • Modelling 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=”http://www.imm.org/” target=”_blank”>Institute for Molecular Manufacturing www.imm.org
  • Woodhead Publishing Limited www.woodheadpublishing.com
  • K E Drexler homepage http://www.e-drexler.com/
  • Nano investments nano.gov
  • Feynman’s talk Feynman’s talk here
  • Textile future 2011 Vimeo
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