Nanotechnology in Textiles: A New Field for Research and Development

Last Updated on 28/12/2020

Nanotechnology in Textiles: A New Field for Research & Development

Jaiparkash Kaushik
Department of Textile Technology
The Technological Institute of Textile and Sciences,
Bhiwani, India


Nanotechnology is the new field under research and development in current day science and technology. Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, in 1959, in his famous presentation entitled “There is Plenty of Room at the bottom”, conceptualised the concept of nanotechnology for the first time. Nanotechnology is roughly defined as dealing with matter at nanoscale level. Nanoscale has been defined as one between 1 nm and 100 nm, and nano enabled are those whose properties and performance has been enhanced using nanotechnology. Size of a single atom is roughly 0.1 nm, it implies that a nanoparticle of 1 nm dimension will have just 10 atoms.

Textile is the one major application area of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology in textiles is used to produce nano fibers and nano finishes. Textile nano fibres are used in high performance areas of applications owing to their extraordinary properties due to their enhanced specific surface area; on the other hand nano finishes when applied on conventional fibers improve their functional properties to match those of high performance fibers. In this paper, role of nanoparticles finish in textiles has been reviewed.

Nanotechnology in textile
Fig: Nanotechnology in textiles

Nanotechnology is the science to deal and control the matter at atomic level. Particles in the range of 1 to 100 nm are classified as nanoparticles. Their superb properties are due to their high surface to volume ratio this imparts these nanoparticles some unique properties which they do not exhibit at macro level.

Nanotechnology is specifically applicable in textiles; this has lead to great interest in research and development work in this field. Any finish applied on textiles should have good durability which is measured in terms of wash fastness of that finish. Nanoparticles due to their nano scale dimensions have very high surface energy and the surface atoms form Vaan der Wall forces with the fabric structure. This gives good affinity for textiles and hence good wash fastness.

Textiles have been broadly classified as traditional and technical textiles. Apparel and home textiles comes under traditional textiles. The primary criteria for judging their suitability for any purpose is their visual appearance, that is, aesthetics. And secondary criteria are the comfort related properties. If we try to impart some special functionality to these textiles products then, in many cases their aesthetic and comfort properties have to be compromised. This is the fundamental of technical textiles where textile products are manufactured for their special functionality rather than their aesthetic and decorative characteristics. Nanotechnology in some way enables us to impart functionality to the textiles products without compromising with their aesthetic and comfort properties. Textile fibre dimensions are large enough in comparison to those of nanoparticles hence, nanoparticles layer cannot be perceived with touch.

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An Introduction to Nanoparticles:
Nanoparticles are a state of condensed matter. NPs are an intermediate form of matter, limited at one hand by the atoms and on the other hand by the solid phase of matter. The properties of NPs are remarkably different from those of individual atoms and those of bulk matter. So, neither the quantum chemistry is applicable to NPs nor the classical physics of bulk matter is applicable. NPs are highly packed structure of atoms of one or more elements. Their properties differ from those of bulk matter because in large crystals properties are decided by the arrangement of atoms inside the crystals. But as the size of crystal is reduced, the number of atoms at the surface becomes more than the number of atoms inside the crystal, and the properties of crystals now become a function of defect surface structure of crystal. Hence, property difference is there. Broadly nanoparticles include metal oxides, clays, and carbon black fillers. Nanometer is the transition phase in terms of behaviour of materials from bulk to atomic level. Ceramics are highly brittle as bulk matter but they are very deformable at nano range. Gold in bulk form is yellow in colour but gold nanoparticle is red in colour. They can interfere with polymer matrix. They reduce the chain mobility and hence increase the tension the toughness and absorption resistance. Due to uniform distribution inside polymer chains they took away the stress from the polymer chains and hence increase the tensile strength.

Threats and Opportunities associated with Nano enabled textiles:

Threats: Nanoparticles shed off from fabric coatings and from production sites could become a new type of pollutants. Studies on CNTs have reported that CNTs could agglomerate and cause respiratory problems and tissue damage in rats. Metal oxide nanoparticles are feared to enter the tissues when they come in contact with human skin. Later they would diffuse into blood and then circulate in whole body. They have strong tendency to agglomerate. So, even after years of diffusion in the body they could agglomerate and cause severe problems. Nano processing has to be made compatible with conventional textile coating processes. High cost of production is a very important to consider.

Opportunities: Self healing, sensorised garments for measurement of vital body parameters, self ironing, coatings active against chemical and biological attacks and with camouflage properties for military use are being investigated and are under research.

Applications of Nanotechnology in Textiles
Here are given some of the potential application areas of nanotechnology in textiles.

Nanotextiles with propertiesNanoscale materialsValue addition
Electro conductive/
antistatic textiles
Carbon black‖Increase electrical
conductivity and
reduce static charge
Nanotubes (CNT)
Anti-bacterial and
ChitosanSterilizing effect, Inhibiting growth of bacteria
SiO2 (as matrix)
Al2O3Increase strength and
Increased durability, Improve abrasion
resistant & toughness
Moisture absorbent TextilesTiO2Increase breathability
and water permeability
Self-cleaning/ dirt and water repellent TextilesCNTIncrease water and dirt repellence
SiO2 (as matrix)
UV protective
TiO2Increase UV Blocking,
Skin protection
Fireproof and Flame retardant TextilesCNTProtect from heat and thermal process effect
Nano-fillersMicrometer intoxicity,
Cleaner air and low-pressure drops through filters
Fragrance and odor control
MontmorilloniteControlled over the release of medicinal products, active agents or fragrances
SiO2 (as matrix)
Improved tensile
CNT100 times increase
tensile strength than steel
Stain Resistive
Carbon black‖Improved staining/ reduced fade
Hydrocarbonnitrogen coatings


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