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Develop High-Tech, Chemical-Resistant Textile Layers
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, has pioneered a method to develop chemical-resistant
textiles by attaching nanolayers to natural fibers.
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 agents.
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,
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 have been funded by
the Institute of Textile Technology and recently received
a seed grant from the NC State nanotechnology steering
committee to further this work.
initial work was published recently in the scientific
- thomas -