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Superhydrophilic wool fabrics join the club of smart materials

By Damir Beciri
23 December 2009

fabricating-superhydrophilic-wool-fabrics-1There is a large focus dedicated to the new material development. The new meta-materials enhance the properties of existing materials. Scientists in China are reporting an advance that may improve the natural wonders of wool, which is already regarded as the “wonder fabric” for its lightness, softness, warmth even when wet, and other qualities. They say the discovery could give wool a “brain,” placing it among other “smart” fabrics that shake off wrinkles, shrinkage and “breathe” to release perspiration.

Fangqiong Tang, Yi Li and colleagues note that wool is naturally water-repellant, or hydrophobic, a feature that acts as a barrier to enhanced features such as anti-wrinkle, anti-shrinkage finishing and dyeing.

Wool’s natural water-repellency also acts as a barrier to enhanced features such as anti-wrinkle, anti-shrinkage finishing and dyeing. This property also hinders its ability to absorb moisture and makes wool garments feel sweaty. Although scientists have developed treatments that make wool more hydrophilic, or water-absorbing, they may not last long, may damage the fabric, and are not environmentally-friendly.

fabricating-superhydrophilic-wool-fabrics-2

The scientists describe development of new coating that appears to ease these problems. It is made from silica nanoparticles of 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. The particles absorb excess moisture, and make wool superhydrophilic. The new layer does not affect wool’s color or texture and can withstand dry cleaning, the scientists note.

The study shows that wool fabrics modified by optical transparence, chemical stability, and nontoxic silica sols are promising in constructing smart textiles. You can find more information in the paper “Fabricating Superhydrophilic Wool Fabrics” published  by the American Chemical Society (ACS). http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/la903562h

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