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


The first post discussed “introduction to Nanotechnology” and how small are materials 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 the human miniaturised 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 presents Nanotechnology as a three-dimensional structure, theme-park alike with bright colours, 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 the ecology: How far should science go making Nanoworld images look like “Disneyland” of an invisible world?

Textile industry caught in a maturity trap

At the beginning of the 1990s, it became known technology within textile manufacturing, finishing and requirement of automation recognised by a high degree of standardisation. Technological progress was no longer only for the rich countries. Companies in 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 provided by a growing number of producers with lower cost. Fashion became less fashionable and more standardised. Recognised by mainstream manufacturing as the loss of competitiveness among established textile companies forced labour and factories to close in many places in the US and Europe, mainly.

New Textile Technology Platform

A new strategy for the European textile industry made by the European community came in 2004, called the New Textile Technology Platform. The research analysed growth areas for the European textile industry: one of these brand-new areas were the incorporation of Nanotechnology and flexible microelectronics into apparel and fashion garments. These technologies open gave new possibilities for the textile industry and a move away from traditional mainstream manufacturing (particularly in Europe) whereby finding a competitive advantage to become crucial. An understanding of how Nanotechnology can bring these innovations to the market, it is crucial to know more what makes the unique technology. And how material properties can behave differently at a very small scale compared to objects at the human scale.

 Graphics Kenneth Buddha Jeans. Nanoscale comparisons

What is Nanoscale?

The scale of Nanotechnology is a general term identified 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 classified as having something to do with Nanotechnology are larger than atoms but much smaller than we can perceive directly with our senses. The Nanoscale is usually characterised 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 visualise it as small as viruses or compare with other objects well-known. Imagine a diameter of hair straw; one Nanometre is about 1/75000 of a human hair. 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, the 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 for renewal, analysing of environmental pollution and early diagnose of cancer cells.

Overview Nanomaterials

The design of Nanotechnology, 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 miniaturisation material properties can behave in a novel way and significantly different for objects at the macroscale. Gaining a fundamental understanding of what the nanoscale structure does (in terms of behaviour or phenomena) is the core of nanoscience and is extremely important for nanotechnology. Among the most well-known kinds of materials categorised and identified in the field of Nanomaterials are as follows:


Graphics Kenneth Buddha Jeans. Overview usage of Nanofibre acrossc fields of science and industry

Development of Nanofibre and their ripple effect

The introduction of Nanotechnology in the textile industry has already started some time ago. One of the most well-known materials at Nanoscale used for textile production are Nanofibres, carbon- Nanotubes, Nanoparticles (metal and oxide), Nanosilver and Nanocapsules. The massive research into Nanomaterials happens across industries and scientific fields of knowledge, therefore being updated is hardly possible.

The rapid 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.

Nanotechnology Methodology

The methodology of Nanomanufacturing at the Nanoscale made in two different ways, either from the top-down, by machining to a smaller and smaller dimension, or from the bottom-up exploring the capability of biological systems as molecules to self-assemble microstructures. Just like nature builds it.


Top-Down assembly

The top-down methodology is recognised by approaching the Nanoscale from the top or larger dimension. It 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 the microchip.

Bottom-Up assembly
The 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. An 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 nanocomponents to be assembled into a higher-order structure still remains a considerable challenge.

Graphics Kenneth Buddha Jeans. Self-assembly

Self-Assembly or Brownian assembly

Self-assembly (also called Brownian assembly) is a term used to describe a spontaneous organisation of pre-existing individual components into an ordered structure without human or supernatural invention. Self-assembly is generally considered a reversible process, tune-able by varying a thermodynamical parameter such as density or temperature and controlled through judicious design of the components. Self-assembly is a fundamental principle which generates structural organisation on different scales, from a molecule (random motion of molecules) to galaxies. Take, for example, how 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. It is the reason but structure scales covering the wings.

Furthermore, known as structural colours. The elaborate architecture of nature’s optical structures at the nanoscale is simply impossible to copy with current engineering techniques, even so. The Japanese textile company Teijin Fibers Limited has to succeed in 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

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

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


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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