We talk quite a bit on this website about the development of new fibers to build new textiles for specific performance requirements. Sometimes, however, a whole new textile is not required. Techniques for modifying the surfaces of textiles have become so sophisticated that many materials can be effectively enhanced to meet a specific need.
Nanocoatings, in particular, are able to modify textiles for higher performance–without affecting what was attractive about the textile in the first place. High performance garments for protective wear are an obvious example. Protective clothing has to be lightweight and comfortable enough for the person wearing it to function as required for the task at hand, so a coating that enhances water repellency, for example, has to maintain the textile’s “hand”
Low-pressure plasma coatings are discussed in some detail in this issue (Advances in low-pressure plasma coatings offer environmental benefits). You might be surprised to learn that new processes are making this technology more environmentally attractive than it has been in the past.
And speaking of sustainability concerns, cotton is getting another look as an ingredient in new nonwovens. Few will dispute cotton’s attributes (absorbency and comfort, for example), but the upfront cleanup of this organic material–and added expense–pretty much took it off the list for use in nonwovens. New processes are addressing this and other concerns. Take a look at Rethinking cotton in nonwovens for details.
One of the interesting things about advanced textiles markets is how researchers and entrepreneurs get creative with otherwise ordinary materials, such as cotton—or processes, such as coatings, for that matter. They’re showing us that we don’t always have to start from “zero” to come up with a better way to provide high-performance textile solutions.
Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.