at North Carolina State University are using emerging
breakthroughs in nanotechnology to develop layers
of “smart textiles” that will not only keep first
responders and the military safe without sacrificing
comfort or ease of use, but also may have numerous
other widespread uses.
Dr. Juan Hinestroza, an assistant professor in the
Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and
Science at NC State, and researchers at the University
of Puerto Rico have pioneered a method to develop
chemical-resistant textiles by attaching nanolayers
to natural fibers.
layers are only 20 nanometers – or 20 billionths
of a meter – thick and made of different polymers
that can control what passes through the layer. The
process is called selective transport.
“These layers are customized for different chemicals,” Hinestroza
said. “We can specifically block warfare agents like
mustard or nerve gas, or industrial chemicals, while
still allowing air and moisture to pass through to
make the fabric breathable.”
Chemicals are blocked, Hinestroza said, when they
bind to the polymers of the fibers, which are made
of materials that are attractive to the chemical
fabrics could be made into garments that offer
very high levels of protection. “We can attach hundreds
of nanolayers to a fiber without affecting its comfort
or usability. This idea has been tried in the semiconductor
industry, but hasn't been achieved with flexible
fabrics,” he said.
The nanolayers adhere to natural fibers by electrostatic force, similar to
the way that magnets attract or repel depending on the electromagnetic charge,
are literally dozens of potential uses of this
technology involving smart textiles. “Imagine
gloves coated with arthritis drugs; military uniforms
coated with antibacterial layers to prevent infection
in case of wound; antibacterial sheets for submarine
bunks to prevent illness spread as these bunks are
shared by enlisted personnel; and comfortable protective
clothing against several chemical and biological
warfare agents,” Hinestroza said.
Additional uses could include diapers coated with
anti-itching polyelectrolytes as well as tissues
coated with anti-allergy medicine, he added.
Hinestroza and his colleagues are funded by the
Institute of Textile Technology and recently received
a seed grant from the NC State nanotechnology steering
The team's initial work was published recently in
the scientific journal Nanotechnology .
Hinestroza , 919/515-9426
Mick Kulikowski ,
News Services, 919/515-3470