That Change Color - A new thread might make retail returns
things of the past. Youâ€™ll be able to change the colors
of your clothes to suit yourself, whenever you please. (11/19/02)
Tech Army Togs - Todayâ€™s soldiers are armed with so
many high-tech gadgets that theyâ€™re advertised as "an
army of one." Now it looks like one of those high-tech devices
may be the uniform itself. (10/23/02)
Elsewhere on the web
Markets Brand to Become 'Intel Inside' of Nano Materials"
Ma, No Stains - Time Magazine
Next Wave - Business 2.0
It's a commonplace pitfall of the holiday season: You wear your best clothes
to a party, and then you spill something and ruin them. But this year, your
outfit could be stain proof—because one scientist has used nanotechnology
to invent fabric that actually repels spills.
This ScienCentral News video reports on cutting-edge clothing that simply refuses
to get stained, yet doesn't feel like oil cloth.
Peach fuzz for pants
Chemical engineer David Soane's new textiles are exciting examples of nanotechnology,
the technology of the future. But you can wear his inventions today. They
have been singled out as key
advances of 2001.
After almost 20 years at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Soane
left academe to found a series of small companies. His main interest was biotech—until
a friend at Levi-Strauss suggested that he look into textiles. Using his garage
as a lab, Soane began devising ways to use nanotechology to add unusual properties
to natural and synthetic textiles, without changing a fabric's look or feel.
What exactly is nanotechnology? It means manipulating matter atom by atom,
where measures must be made in nanometers. (A nanometer is one billionth of
a meter, only three to five atoms wide.) The goal of nanotechnology is to
build tiny machines with extraordinary properties. Over the next twenty to
fifty years, these nano-machines' unusual abilities promise to radically change
manufacturing, information technologies, and medicine.
Scientists like David Soane have already changed materials with nanotechnology.
In 1998, Soane started Nano-Tex,
and began inventing a series of ways to improve the strength, durability,
and usefulness of natural fibers like wool and cotton. The first is a stain-proofing
process that Soane calls Nano-Care.
Other stain-proofing processes coat fabrics, leaving them stiff or fuzzy. Soane's
breakthrough was to create tiny structures that he calls "nanowhiskers."
Each nanowhisker is only ten nanometers long, made of a few atoms of carbon.
These whiskers repel stains by forming a cushion of air around cotton fibers.
But they cannot be seen or felt on the fabric's surface, so the fabric stays
To attach these whiskers to cotton molecules, Soane uses an environmentally-friendly
method. Cotton is immersed in a tank of water full of billions of nanowhiskers.
Next, as the fabric is heated and water evaporates, the nanowhiskers form
a chemical bond with cotton fibers, attaching themselves permanently. The
whiskers are so tiny that comparatively, a cotton fiber looks like a tree
trunk, while the whiskers look like fuzz on its bark.
Soane's nanowhiskers are already on the market in jeans and khakis that repel
liquid spills—soda, juice, wine, salad oil and even soy sauce. The nanowhiskers
prevent liquid spills from soaking into your clothes. Instead, drops bead
up and can be brushed off like liquid lint, leaving no stains.
David Soane promises Nano-Touch, a process that makes more wool and cotton
more durable, and Nano-Dry, a means of keeping clothing fresh and free of