Wouldn’t it be great if we knew our shirts wouldn’t develop an unsightly sweat patch during those blistering summer months, or that our suit would repel that sudden April shower and prevent us getting soaked to the skin?
Well, we’re closer to that than ever before thanks to nanotechnology.
According to the Consumer Products Inventory, there are over 1,600 products listed as containing nanoparticles. These items range from household goods to toothpaste, but they also happen to include clothing.
There are several nanoparticles added to the clothing we wear today
But what is a nanoparticle?
Put simply, it’s a microscopic particle that can change how a material behaves. Sounds like something out of Star Trek, doesn’t it? Let’s see how they work when it comes to clothes.
Nanoparticles can reduce static in clothes
Nylon and polyester are renowned for gathering static charge and delivering an unexpected electric shock, or making your hair stand up when you take your jumper off! Some nanoparticles conduct electricity, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and that helps to disperse the charge and make the clothes anti-static.
Waterproof and stain-resistant clothing is now possible thanks to nanotechnology
Silica nanoparticles woven into fabric or sprayed on to its surface creates a coating that repels water and liquids that can stain. No more sweat patches or coffee stains!
This is because the angle and roughness of the silica creates tension in the surface that makes liquids form beads and roll off the fabric, rather than soaking into it.
Nanotechnology in clothing can also help us be healthier
Silver has a powerful ability to kill bacteria, fungi and other microbes. Nanosilver particles can make your clothes antibacterial as they release positively charged ions that stop the cells of the bacteria from functioning. Which means it also kills the nasty odours they like to cause, making it great for sportswear.
UV protection from our clothes is also possible
No more getting sunburnt through your t-shirt or vest. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles scatter the ultraviolet light that comes from the sun. Preventing damage to us and our clothing.
But is it safe to be wearing this kind of technology so close to our skin?
Well, nanotechnology is still relatively new as far as science goes and the jury is still out. Research has found that clothes containing titanium dioxide don’t shed particles, but nanosilver is lost when we sweat. Nanosilver isn’t particularly toxic to humans but is dangerous to aquatic life, so entering the water supply from a laundry cycle could become an issue.
At the moment we’re mainly seeing nano-coating to clothing rather than fabric made directly from nanofibres, but as technology progresses who knows what we might see in our clothing of tomorrow.