Nano-Stealth. Nano-textiles is the results of scientific tinkering at subtle layers of matter without a complete understanding of the consequences, and according to their ardent proponents it have an almost unbounded potential for improving life on Earth, and according to their equally passionate opponents Nano textile technologies have been recklessly released upon consumers without adequate testing and understanding of potential consequences.
To understand Nano-textiles, we must first explore nanotechnology, which enables the manipulation of fibers at the level of atoms and molecules to alter their properties and qualities. The prefix Nano is derived from the Greek word for dwarf. According to WikiAnswers, “nano” essentially means “really small. Divided into a billion parts. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A nanosecond is one billionth of a second. A nanocraig would be one billionth of some guy named Craig.”
Nanotechnology operates on nanomaterial’s, which are particles such as molecules having a size of 100 nanometers (nm) or less. A meter is approximately 39 inches so a nanometer is one billionth (1/1,000,000,000) of a meter or really, really small. The width of the typical human hair is about 80,000 nm so nanotechnology – and the nanomaterial’s that they create – operate in a world that is about 1,000 times smaller than the width of a hair. Nanotechnology begins at the level of creation where elements of chemistry, physics, biology and engineering converge.
Nano-materials are engineered at the atomic and molecular level and when they are integrated into fabrics can fundamentally alter the physical properties of a textile. According to a recent article on nano-textiles, Sole fresh socks from JR Nanotech are “peppered with silver nanoparticles natural antibacterial and antifungal properties mean that the socks combat infections, sores, and, yes stinky feet.” Nanotechnology can be used to give fabrics a wide range of properties such as being:
- Resistant to spills and stains;
- Create superior temperature moderation when the wearer moves between hot and cold external temperatures;
- Really permanent press and wrinkle resistance;
- Able to oxide smog;
- Antibacterial and antifungal;
- Color fast without dyes because the color is a function of the nanoparticle;
The Concern With NanoTechnology. Not all the properties, characteristics and side-effects of a nano-particle are known, and the unpredictable and unknown side-effects of nano-particles concerns some scientists, environmentalists, and health advocates. For example, nano-particles used in cosmetics or clothing may create toxins that are easily absorbed into the skin and circulatory system and, because of their very small size, be carried throughout the entire body and into all the organs, including the brain, with unknown consequences. Because of their extremely small size, the possibility of nano-particles escaping and leaking into the environment during manufacturing processes also increases with unknown results.
A report by the British Government in 2005 cautioned companies and consumers on the unknown effects of nano-particles. The report concluded “The Government accepts that chemicals in the form of nanoparticles or nanotubes can exhibit different properties to the bulk form of the chemical. Safety testing on the basis of a larger form of a chemical cannot be used to infer the safety of the nanoparticulate form of the same chemical.”
For example, zinc oxide in its common non-nanoparticulate form has been widely used in creams and ointments to treat minor skin burns and also in sunblocks. Manufacturers have been releasing a bevy of sunblocks containing zinc oxide in its nanoparticulate form because the nanoparticles of zinc oxide are more easily absorbed into the skin without the chalky film of conventional sunblocks.