Nanotechnology on the catwalk

Nanotechnology on the catwalk

Summary: This event didn't take place in Paris or Milano, but at Cornell University during their Cornell Design League fashion show on April 21. It's now official: nanotechnology has entered the fashion world. Fashion designers and fiber scientists have unified their efforts at Cornell to show a two-toned gold dress and a metallic denim jacket made of cotton fabrics coated with nanoparticles. And these garments can prevent colds and flu, destroy noxious gases and never need washing. When will we see these garments at our department store? The researchers don't say, but read more about the technology used...

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TOPICS: Fiber
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This event didn't take place in Paris or Milano, but at Cornell University during their Cornell Design League fashion show on April 21. It's now official: "nanotechnology has entered the fashion world." Fashion designers and fiber scientists have unified their efforts at Cornell to show a two-toned gold dress and a metallic denim jacket made of cotton fabrics coated with nanoparticles. And these garments can prevent colds and flu, destroy noxious gases and never need washing. When will we see these garments at our department store? The researchers don't say, but read more about the technology used.

Nanotechnology on the catwalkOn the left you can see two pictures illustrating the arrival of nanotechnology into the fashion world.

The top picture shows "Nicole Grospe '07, left, and Andrea Clark '07 model clothing designed by Olivia Ong '07, at the Cornell Design League fashion show. The dress and jacket contain nanoparticles with antibacterial and air-purifying qualities." (Credit: Michael Grace-Martin, for Cornell University; link to the original picture)

The bottom image shows "electrospun nylon 6 nanofibers decorated with surface bound Ag nanoparticles. Immersing nylon 6 nanofibers into Ag colloidal solution with pH 5, Ag nanoparticles were assembled onto nylon 6 nanofibers via interaction between nylon 6 and protection groups of Ag nanoparticles. Future applications include antibacterial filtration." (Credit: Hong Dong, Cornell University; link to the original image)

These garments were designed by Olivia Ong, of the College of Human Ecology's Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design. She used nanofibers synthesized by fiber science assistant professor Juan Hinestroza and his postdoctoral researcher Hong Dong in the Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory.

Now, why is the dress designed for the Cornell Design League fashion show so special?

The upper portion of the dress contains cotton coated with silver nanoparticles. Dong first created positively charged cotton fibers using ammonium- and epoxy-based reactions, inducing positive ionization. The silver particles, about 10-20 nanometers across (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) were synthesized in citric acid, which prevented nanoparticle agglomeration. Dipping the positively charged cotton into the negatively charged silver nanoparticle solution resulted in the particles clinging to the cotton fibers.
Silver possesses natural antibacterial qualities that are strengthened at the nanoscale, thus giving Ong's dress the ability to deactivate many harmful bacteria and viruses. The silver infusion also reduces the need to wash the garment, since it destroys bacteria, and the small size of the particles prevents soiling and stains.

The denim jacket shown during that fashion show "included a hood, sleeves and pockets with soft, gray tweed cotton embedded with palladium nanoparticles, about 5-10 nanometers in length." And with its unique properties, it should protect its wearers "from harmful gases in the contaminated air, such as in a crowded or polluted city."

For more information, you should read another article published by Cornell's College of Human Ecology, "Nano-Textiles Are Engineering a Safer World" (November 2006).

Sources: Anne Ju, Cornell Chronicle, May 1, 2007; and various websites

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Topic: Fiber

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