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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanotechnologyKTN > NanoKTN Explores Advances in Textiles at Nano4Design Workshop

Fiona Brewer

Textiles are an important part of our everyday lives with uses ranging from high-end designer apparel, through to specialist textiles for protection, sports and leisure, medical applications, assisted living, furnishing and construction.

On 28th February 2012, the NanoKTN hosted a workshop highlighting key developments within this field to encourage commercialisation and uptake by end-users. The workshop brought together both product and fashion designers and nanotechnologists, to facilitate information exchange and to raise awareness of consumer and market needs by flagging up new technological developments.

April 5th, 2012

NanoKTN Explores Advances in Textiles at Nano4Design Workshop

Over thirty delegates attended the Nano4Design workshop on ‘Nano-enhanced Textiles' and were introduced to an excellent array of ideas and new technologies. The event was hosted by Nanoforce at Queen Mary, University London (QMUL) and Chaired by Dr Martin Kemp of the NanoKTN.

Professor Ton Peijs of QMUL opened proceedings with a keynote on nano-filled fibres. Professor Peijs' presentation showed how by adding controlled amounts of carbon nanotubes to thermoplastic fibres, the conductivity could be tailored so that under strain, the change in resistance can be used to measure strain in a structure. Applications of the technology using electrospun fibres include surface strain monitoring in yacht sails and sensing of vapour and solvents.

The keynote was followed by a series of other presentations from leading professionals:

‘Wearable Absence' - Professor Janis Jefferies, Professor of Visual Arts, Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor Jeffries summarised the benefits of Wearable Absence - a system of wearable devices never before seen in the expanding field of intelligent textiles. Combining uniquely engineered adaptors and soft cabling systems with fashionable clothing designs, the garments incorporate wireless technologies and bio-sensing devices to activate a rich database of image and sound, creating a narrative, or string of messages, from an ‘absent' person.

Wireless sensors and bio-sensing devices are embedded into garments that record the wearer's temperature, heart rate, galvanic skin response (moisture) and rate of respiration. When the data is analyzed and the wearer's emotional state is determined, a message is sent via the Internet to a sophisticated database which in turn sends back an appropriate response to the clothing. These returning messages will evoke memories of an absent person, and may take the form of voice recordings or songs broadcast from speakers sewn into a hood or shoulder seams, or scrolling text on a LED array woven into fabric, or video and photographic imagery.

‘D3O: Shock Absorption and Impact Protection Solution Company' - Richard Holman, Materials Technologist, D3O
D3O® is a British based impact protection solutions company that markets a unique patented technology which is used to produce a shock absorbing material. D3O® has an extensive portfolio of shock absorption smart materials, which are tuned in accordance to the application. The key properties of resilience, visco-elasticity, flexibility and cushioning are complemented by the use of composite materials and mechanical design to enhance the overall performance. Different testing methodologies are used to evaluate the solutions and illustrate them to the consumers. Holman's presentation looked in detail at the D3O® polymers, currently being used by several brands in the sports, electronic and the defence markets.

‘Accelerating Ideas to Market Through Design' - Ellie Runcie, Director - Design Innovation Services & Networks, Design Council
Over the last ten years the Design Council has helped hundreds of SME businesses transform their growth prospects. The programme - Designing Demand - helps businesses to understand how design, used strategically, can be a transformational tool to boost performance and increase competitiveness and profit. It is part of the government's ‘Solutions for Business' business support portfolio. An independent evaluation of the programme earlier this year showed that businesses can expect, typically, over £25 return on investment for every pound invested in design.

Runcie outlined sources of funding for SMEs and spoke about how to get involved with the Design Council, as well as providing an overview of its current programme which represents a significant opportunity for SMEs with potential for growth, providing them with a level of hands-on advice and guidance many businesses might not otherwise be able to access or afford.

‘Yorkshire's Textile Innovation Programme' - Bill Macbeth, Managing Director, Textile Centre of Excellence
Bill Macbeth gave an insight into their work for member textile organisations. Projects included plasma laser treatment and incorporating gold nanoparticles into the pin stripes of suit material, which he claimed was the most expensive suit material in the world.

It's Not the Materials, It's the Effects Talking' - Professor Raymond Oliver, Chair, Active and Interaction Materials Director, P3i Design: STEM Interaction Studio, Northumbria University, School of Design (NSD)
This short presentation summarised a new initiative at NSD called P3i i.e. Printable, Paintable, Programmable materials capable of being made into intelligent devices and systems. The basis for P3i is a combined Design:STEM Interactive Studio approach that aims to explore and investigate the convergence of biology, electronics and nanomaterials and textiles through a series of themes relevant to the enhancement of Future Ways of Living.

‘Nanostructured Antimicrobials for Textile Applications' - Dr Andrew Dean, Chief Executive Officer, Spartan Nano Ltd
Nanostructured thin-films can be produced by numerous methods, some of which are amenable to large-scale production. Physical vapour deposition (PVD) can achieve highly controlled morphology nanoscale surface architectures which can be targeted to kill harmful bacteria. Using nanoscale structures, Dr Dean showed that bacteria such as escherichia coli and staphylococcus aureus (both harmful to human health) can be killed in solution and on a surface. Unlike chemical antimicrobials, nanostructured surfaces are not toxic to aquatic life. Other benefits include the ability to clean the surfaces and durability. This work has been carried out in collaboration between Spartan Nano Ltd and Dr Del Atkinson from Durham University, with funding from METRC and Dean summarised the findings in his presentation.

‘Production of Reflective Fibres for Smart Textile Applications' - Oliver Picot, QMUL
Smart textiles represent the next generation of fibres, fabrics and the products produced from them. Recent research has been focused on the creation and introduction of new functionalities into textile fibres, wovens and non-wovens, to generate specific properties for a broad range of potential applications.

Traditionally, inorganic or organic dyes are used to produce colours in textiles which are based on absorption of light. Here, novel techniques to obtain visual effects based on diffraction and/or reflection of visual light are developed. Picot looked at this concept which is based on a bi-component fibre system where a fibre (natural or synthetic) is coated with a functional layer, giving new properties to the fibre.

‘Embedded Fragrances in Textiles' - Dr Daniel Lynch, Technical Director, Exilica Ltd
Dr Lynch presented the unique functional particles developed by Exilica - Poly(1-methylpyrrol-2-ylsquaraine) (PMPS) which can be produced as micrometer-sized spherical particles with elaborate internal amorphous nanoporous structure. This internal structure means that they can absorb a wide range of chemical species which act as ‘carriers' for the loading and release of active chemical agents in and from thermoplastics. Lynch presented the latest developments of an industrial collaboration in PMPS particle technology for loading of fragrances into thermoplastic textile fibres.

This article gives only a snapshot of the developments in this area. Presentations can be found in full on the NanoKTN website ( ) and are available to members of the NanoKTN.

About NanoKTN:
The NanoKTN facilitates the transfer of knowledge and experience between industry and research, offering companies dealing in small-scale technology access to information on new processes, patents and funding as well as keeping up-to-date with industry regulation. The four broad areas that the NanoKTN focuses on are: Promoting and facilitating knowledge exchange, supporting the growth of UK capabilities, raising awareness of Nanotechnology, and providing thought leadership and input to UK policy and strategy. Membership to the NanoKTN is free. More information can be found at

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