Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Consider Clothing that Can't Get Wet

nanofabric repels water
The new fabric strongly repels water
thanks to nanoscale filaments with a
spiky structure
(Image: University of Zurich/Wiley Vch)
from a news release of New Scientist, "Nanotech clothing fabric 'never gets wet'", by Jon Evans, Nov 24, 2008

A new waterproof fabric developed in Switzerland just can't get wet! It is the most water repellant material that is suitable for clothing that has ever been created.

The fabric is made of polyester fibers coated with millions of tiny silicone filaments. Drops of water retain their spherical shape and cannot penetrate. If the surface of the fabric is tilted to only two degrees, the water rolls off. Even shooting water under pressure at the fabric can't make it get wet; the water just bounces.

Stefan Seeger at the University of Zurich says the spiky silicone nanofilament layer is the secret. The material is chemically hydrophobic, and the spiky structure strengthens the effect.

As is often the case, science is imitating nature. A similar structure is what keeps the surface of Lotus leaves dry. And the layer of air trapped in the nanofilaments is similar to the method used by some insects and spiders to trap air for underwater survival.

This air layer also suggests uses such as athletic swimwear since it also causes the fabric to have reduced drag.

"Although the textiles did show some degradation in the mechanical abrasion tests, their performance was very impressive," Seeger says. "The era of self-cleaning clothes may be closer than we think."

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