Nanofibers are categorised in a new class of fibrous materials having diameters equal or less than 100nm. Synthetically made, these tiny fibers can be easily modified to fit desired characteristics and are useful for various industries such as the textile industry. Most commonly produced by the electrospinning process, the polymer fluid is first charged with a high electrical voltage and when the electrical force reaches high enough to overcome the surface tension of the polymer fluid, a metal spinneret with a 0.1-1mm diameter will eject a fluid jet towards a grounded metal collector all while the fluid undergoes whipping-like bending instability and elongation resulting in a small, solidified fiber.
Although electrospinning uses hazardous solvents that damage the environment, new studies on nanotechnology such as ‘Green electrospinning’ are being developed. According to a National Science Foundation report, “green electrospinning is an eco-conscious and scalable biofabrication process that replaces traditional solvent with biologically benign solutions. Using this method, adverse impacts of the manufacturing process could be decreased three to six times”.
Moreover, the study was also mentioned by Helen H. Lu from Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University that “Green electrospinning not only preserves the composition, chemistry, architecture, and biocompatibility of traditionally electrospunfibers, but it also improves their mechanical properties by doubling the ductility of traditional fibers without compromising yield or ultimate tensile strength. Our work provides both a more biocompatible and sustainable solution for scalable nanomaterial fabrication”.
Advantages of nanofibers
Most of the benefits of nanofibers come from the fact that the structure of the fiber is able to be tailor-made to achieve specific properties, but the most notable properties of nanofibers would be their large ratio of surface area to volume and superior mechanical performance (stiffness and tensile strength) compared to other fiber material forms. Other than that, nanofibers are also inexpensive to produce.
Hence there are many applications for nanofibers such as in protective materials, medical, energy, automotive, agriculture, filtration, and technical textiles.
Disadvantages of nanofibers
Along with any other fibers, nanofibers also have their own drawbacks. Producing nanofibers at a large scale is still a challenging task as electrospinning techniques have some disadvantages such as low yield, high operating voltage, and difficulty in attaining in situ deposition of nanofibers on different substrates. What’s more is that a study on fabric characterization and optimization of MnxOy nanofibers for improved supercapacitive properties shows that electrospun nanofibers exhibit poor mechanical strength due to poor crystallinity. However, all of these drawbacks can be overcome by altering the synthesis method.
What is the future for nanofibers and nanotechnology in the textile industry?
With the growing acceptance of technology especially in the textile and fashion industry, the demand for new technologies has companies like NanoTextile, a textile technology service provider company, continuously developing and innovating new technologies. Also focusing on green technology, NanoTextile uses non-toxic materials in their nanotechnology embedment process.
Offering consultancy services regarding nanotechnology and technology series consists of Hygienic, Protection, Comfort, Care, Premium and Advanced series. Each series contains several technologies for example the Hygienic series comprise anti-bacterial, self-cleaning and odour-control technologies. The company sees the potential of combining nanotechnology and fashion producing a new range of technical textiles.
In short, the applications of nanofibers and nanotechnology are growing in demand, especially with the recent acceptance of technical clothing in everyday wear. Consumers are now more open to spending more on the added value of clothing and focusing on sustainability rather than fast fashion.
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