Chemistry makes the natural 'wonder fabric' -- wool -- more wonderful

December 22, 2009

Scientists in China are reporting an advance that may improve the natural wonders of wool -- already regarded as the "wonder fabric" for its lightness, softness, warmth even when wet, and other qualities. They say the discovery could give wool a "brain," placing it among other "smart" fabrics that shake off wrinkles, shrinkage and "breathe" to release perspiration. The study is in ACS' Langmuir, a bi-weekly journal.

Fangqiong Tang, Yi Li and colleagues note that wool is naturally water-repellant, or hydrophobic, a feature that acts as a barrier to enhanced features such as anti-wrinkle, anti-shrinkage finishing and dyeing. Wool's water-repellency also hinders its ability to absorb moisture and makes wool garments feel sweaty. Although scientists have developed treatments that make wool more hydrophilic, or water-absorbing, they may not last long, may damage the fabric, and are not environmentally-friendly.

The scientists describe development of new coating that appears to ease these problems. It is made from silica nanoparticles of 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. The particles absorb excess moisture, and make wool superhydrophilic. The new layer does not affect wool's color or texture and can withstand dry cleaning, the scientists note.
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ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"Fabricating Superhydrophilic Wool Fabrics"

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http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/la903562h

CONTACT:
Fangqiong Tang, Ph.D.
Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Phone: 86-10-825-43521
Fax: 86-10-62554670
Email: tangfq@mail.ipc.ac.cn

American Chemical Society

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