Category Archives: clothing

Fewer silver nanoparticles washed off coated textiles

This time I have two complementary tidbits about silver nanoparticles, their use in textiles, and washing. The first is a June 30, 2014 news item on Nanowerk, with the latest research from Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) on silver nanoparticles being sloughed off textiles when washing them,

The antibacterial properties of silver-coated textiles are popular in the fields of sport and medicine. A team at Empa has now investigated how different silver coatings behave in the washing machine, and they have discovered something important: textiles with nano-coatings release fewer nanoparticles into the washing water than those with normal coatings …

A June 30,  2014 Empa news release, which originated the news item, describes the findings in more detail,

If it contains ‘nano’, it doesn’t primarily leak ‘nano’: at least that’s true for silver-coated textiles, explains Bernd Nowack of the «Technology and Society» division at Empa. During each wash cycle a certain amount of the silver coating is washed out of the textiles and ends up in the waste water. [emphasis mine] Empa analysed this water; it turned out that nano-coated textiles release hardly any nano-particles. That’s quite the opposite to ordinary coatings, where a lot of different silver particles were found. Moreover, nano-coated silver textiles generally lose less silver during washing. This is because considerably less silver is incorporated into textile fabrics with nano-coating, and so it is released in smaller quantities for the antibacterial effect than is the case with ordinary coatings. A surprising result that has a transformative effect on future analyses and on the treatment of silver textiles. «All silver textiles behave in a similar manner – regardless of whether they are nano-coated or conventionally-coated,» says Nowack. This is why nano-textiles should not be subjected to stricter regulation than textiles with conventional silver-coatings, and this is relevant for current discussions concerning possible special regulations for nano-silver.

But what is the significance of silver particles in waste water? Exposed silver reacts with the (small quantities of) sulphur in the air to form silver sulphide, and the same process takes place in the waste water treatment plant. The silver sulphide, which is insoluble, settles at the bottom of the sedimentation tank and is subsequently incinerated with the sewage sludge. So hardly any of the silver from the waste water remains in the environment. Silver is harmless because it is relatively non-toxic for humans. Even if silver particles are released from the textile fabric as a result of strong sweating, they are not absorbed by healthy skin.

I’ve highlighted Nowack’s name as he seems to have changed his opinions since I first wrote about his work with silver nanoparticles in textiles and washing in a Sept. 8, 2010 posting,

“We found that the total released varied considerably from less than 1 to 45 percent of the total nanosilver in the fabric and that most came out during the first wash,” Bernd Nowack, head of the Environmental Risk Assessment and Management Group at the Empa-Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, tells Nanowerk. “These results have important implications for the risk assessment of silver textiles and also for environmental fate studies of nanosilver, because they show that under certain conditions relevant to washing, primarily coarse silver-containing particles are released.”

How did the quantity of silver nanoparticles lost in water during washing change from “less than 1 to 45 percent of the total nanosilver in the fabric” in a 2010 study to “Empa analysed this water; it turned out that nano-coated textiles release hardly any nano-particles” in a 2014 study? It would be nice to find out if there was a change in the manufacturing process and whether or not this is global change or one undertaken in Switzerland alone.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the Empa paper,

Presence of Nanoparticles in Wash Water from Conventional Silver and Nano-silver Textiles by Denise M. Mitrano, Elisa Rimmele, Adrian Wichser, Rolf Erni, Murray Height, and Bernd Nowack. ACS Nano, Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/nn502228w Publication Date (Web): June 18, 2014

Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

The second tidbit is from Iran and may help to answer my questions about the Empa research. According to a July 7, 2014 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

Writing in The Journal of The Textile Institute (“Effect of silver nanoparticles morphologies on antimicrobial properties of cotton fabrics”), researchers from Islamic Azad University in Iran, describe the best arrangement for increasing the antibacterial properties of textile products by studying various structures of silver nanoparticles.

A July 7, 2014 news release from the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC), which originated the news item, provides more details,

By employing the structure presented by the researchers, the amount of nanoparticles stabilization on the fabric and the durability of its antibacterial properties increase after washing and some problems are solved, including the change in the fabric color.

Using the results of this research creates diversity in the application of various structures of nanoparticles in the complementary process of cotton products. Moreover, the color of the fabric does not change as the amount of consumed materials decreases, because the excess use of silver was the cause of this problem. On the other hand, the stability and durability of nanoparticles increase against standard washing. All these facts result in the reduction in production cost and increase the satisfaction of the customers.

The researchers have claimed that in comparison with other structures, hierarchical structure has much better antibacterial activity (more than 91%) even after five sets of standard washing.

This work on morphology would seem to answer my question about the big difference in Nowack’s description of the quantity of silver nanoparticles lost due to washing. I am assuming, of course, that something has changed with regard to the structure and/or shape of the silver nanoparticles coating the textiles used in the Empa research.

Getting back to the work in Iran, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Effect of silver nanoparticles morphologies on antimicrobial properties of cotton fabrics by Mohammad Reza Nateghia & Hamed Hajimirzababa. The Journal of The Textile Institute Volume 105, Issue 8, 2014 pages 806-813 DOI: 10.1080/00405000.2013.855377 Published online: 21 Jan 2014

This paper is behind a paywall.

Nanotech clothing protection spray, LiquidOff, in a Kickstarter campaign

“Magical, self-cleaning, water-repelling spray” is the description Aken Technologies has on its Kickstarter LiquidOff campaign page and a June 17, 2014 news item on Nanowerk offers more enthusiasm,

A new company with a revolutionary product likely to disrupt the clothing industry has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help get it off the ground.

Aken Technologies, LLC of Albuquerque, New Mexico is seeking to raise $25,000 for its LiquidOff product that uses innovative safe and eco-friendly nanotechnology to instantly make your clothing waterproof and self-cleaning.

The easy-to-use spray-on solution repels everything from wine spills to coffee and tea stains to barbeque sauce messes to mud splatters. And it’s not just for clothing. It’s just as effective for your shoes, car seats, tablecloths and furniture, and almost anything else you want to protect. It can be used on nearly all textiles and other surfaces such as leather, cotton, silk, suede, metal, plastic and paper.

A June 14, 2014 Aken Technologies news release, which originated the news item, describes more of the product benefits

LiquidOff is the first 100 percent green and eco-friendly solution that is not only chemical and aerosol free but also incorporates antimicrobial agents that protect against the transmission of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

For immediate and effective protection, you simply spray LiquidOff on the material and blow dry it or iron it. Alternatively, let the material dry for itself for a few hours. The treatment dries clear onto all surfaces and is completely invisible to the naked eye. It doesn’t leave a white cloudy haze like other products.

LiquidOff does hide the unsightly evidence of perspiration and maintains the breathability and texture of all treated materials. Garments will not be damaged, hardened, or become uncomfortable. Unlike existing products that can be toxic, LiquidOff’s proprietary trade-secret water-based formulation is completely safe, even for use on kids clothing.

LiquidOff is also “super hydrophobic.” It goes way beyond other hydrophobic liquid repellant products and its properties are much longer-lasting. Initial tests show that one treatment can provide over five years of protection. For areas that require constant washing, such as clothing, a treatment can last upwards of 20 washes.

LiquidOff is the brainchild of Aken Technologies’ CEO and founder, Harold Stewart, who recently left the security of his job as a Department of Defense electrical engineer to throw himself full-time into the business. Working with a scientific research team they brought nanotechnology out of the lab and applied it into a real world manufacturing solution.

Stewart said, “Our group has created a product that is truly unique and revolutionary. I like to say that LiquidOff is truly your knight in shining armor. As a company we are dedicated to providing advanced technology and innovative applications using the power of nanotechnology and its intrinsic properties in order to position ourselves as a leading edge nanotechnology solutions and applications provider.”

LiquidOff is the first of many unique and effective products that Aken Technologies intends to bring to market based on its cutting edge developments in nanotechnology. On Kickstarter the company is looking for contributions of as little as $5.00.

With 32 days left to achieve their goal of $25,000, Aken Technologies has raised a little over $15,000 which can be seen here.  The campaign video is approximately 3 mins., 30 secs. and not only demonstrates previously mentioned product benefits, it reveals the product’s ability to enhance one’s dating prospects,

Set to a bouncy soundtrack, the video also features the product’s inventor/developer, Harold Stewart, discussing LiquidOff.

There does seem to be a company website at http://www.liquidoff.com but all of my attempts to access it lead me back to the Kickstarter campaign. I’m not sure what that means, if anything. In any event, I wish Harold Stewart and his partners good luck!

ETA June 25, 2014: Dexter Johnson asks some pointed questions about this campaign in his June 25, 2014 posting (Nanoclast blog on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website),

The  [Kickstarter] “investors” don’t really seem to be formulating the right questions. (Their questions are reasonable but not relevant to Aken’s prospects for success.) A typical question is something along the lines of: “Will this technology work?” Yes, it works; there’s been a long commercial history of hydrophobic materials being used effectively in textiles. Instead, what potential investors should be asking is how Aken’s offering is better than—or how can it even compete with—long-established companies that do the same.

Franky Shaw speaks out about the Lexis design on his nanotechnology-enabled men’s swim trunks

In a May 29, 2014 posting I featured a Kickstarter project for nanotechnology-enabled men’s swim trunks/shorts,

It seems like a pretty good idea, swimwear that doesn’t get wet, as noted in the Frank Anthony Kickstarter campaign (the comments about the design are after the technology descriptions),

We were tired of having to change shorts every time you leave the beach, having car seats soaked and not being able to go from the beach to a restaurant.

I then went on to comment about one of the designs (there are several others), the Lexis desiign, which I’m not going to reproduce here (you can see it in the May 29, 2014 posting) but here’s a description,

I’m trying to imagine who’d wear this with an image placed so the model appears to be staring into his (the wearer’s) crotch, mouth held invitingly open.

I next related this example to a culture that regularly demeans women and included an extreme example of then recent mass killings in Isla Vista, California, where the shooter who committed suicide had produced a number of videos and a manifesto claiming that women owed him. A commenter for the May 29, 2014 posting later attempted to suggest that I had correlated shorts and a mass shooting. I guess that’s one way to look at it (I replied at some length to that comment).

In any event Mr. Shaw sent me a couple of emails outlining his position and with his permission I am reproducing them here. The first was dated June 2, 2014,

Hi Maryse,

I read your post with regards to my nanotechnology startup swimwear company based out of Toronto, Canada. It was a very interesting read and most of the things within the first few paragraphs I felt displayed what we’re trying to achieve as a company.

After reading your response with regards to objectifying women and relating our ‘Lexis’ shorts towards the mass murder which took place in Isla Vista, California I thought that an explanation was needed to be given.

The Lexis garment was never supposed to be taken as objectifying women in any way. The model is a very beautiful woman who is simply posing for an artistic photograph. I would be lying if I did infact say I didn’t position her on the garment to appear as if she was looking upwards towards the wearer but it was never intended to be taken as “sexually explicit”.

At Frank Anthony swimwear we believe in beauty, whether you are a male or a female we believe that you should embrace your inner sexuality and not be afraid of those who question it. This design is simply showcasing the beauty of a woman and capturing her admiring expression towards our wearer.

We understand it is a “risky” design but then again we are in the fashion industry. There are allot more sexually thought provoking advertisements shown which display both males and females as sexual objects in fashion, because in the end its fun to break the barriers of society once and awhile. It is not  meant to be taken as objectifying or disrespect, it is simply just pointing towards a direction that our users have to fill in the blanks mentally to conclude.

My thoughts go out to the victims of the attack in Isla Vista, California. Mental illness isn’t a funny subject nor should it be taken lightly. It was an extreme case of an untreated illness and we are sorry for the families of the victims.

Thank you for your article.

Regards,
Franky Shaw
CEO, Frank Anthony

Note: The man who killed those people in Isla Vista had been treated for mental illness for many years and was under treatment at the time of the killings.

I received later on June 2, 2014,

Hi Maryse,
At this time I would appreciate that our conversation remains respectful of both parties and that you kindly release my statement with regards to the Lexis design in a separate article.
I am not doing this for publicity nor do I expect anything in return, but I just really don’t tolerate when people call me out for something I don’t stand for such as sexism.

Regards,
Franky

Not having used the word ‘sexism’ in the May 29, 2014  posting, I’m not sure what he’s referring to but perhaps it’s this,

McDonough’s May 27, 2014 posting about Rodger has a title that allows me to take my commentary on the Lexis design from one of mere bad taste to an indication of something far more disturbing, “Rebecca Solnit on Elliot Rodger: “He fits into a culture of rage,” “a culture that considers women tools and playthings and property.”  Getting back to Lexis, she’s on a pair of swim shorts where she looks as if she’s perpetually ready to perform a sexual act. She is at once a tool, a plaything, and a piece of property.

The design sits there on the Frank Anthony Kickstarter campaign webpage and, at this time (June 13, 2014 1040 hours PDT), the company (Canadian, by the way) has raised over $61,000 ($51,000 more than the original goal) with 11 days still left before the campaign is ended. Many news outlets have featured the Frank Anthony Kickstarter campaign along with images of the designs. For example, Olivia Fleming’s June 9, 2014 article for the Daily Mail online focuses on the technology aspect, mentioning that Shaw is 19-year-old, while showcasing some of the designs but omitting the Lexis,

A high school graduate tired of having his car seats soaked after a day at the beach has created swimming shorts that stay dry – even while in the water.

Frank Shaw, from Toronto, Canada, is funding his Frank Anthony swimwear line through Kickstarter, and after 15 days he has already surpassed his $10,000 goal to raise $45,000.

‘We wanted to create a garment that could transition from a day at the beach, to a workout at the gym and a night on the town all without having to change,’ the 19-year-old told MailOnline.

As I understand it, the Daily Mail (a UK newspaper) is not known for its highbrow taste. In fact, I have not seen a single news outlet reproduce the Lexis design as an example of the product line. My guess is that I’m not the only one who thinks the design crosses a line.

Climb like a gecko (in DARPA’s [US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] Z-Man program)

I’m not entirely certain why DARPA (US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has now issued a news release (h/t June 5, 2014 news item on Nanowerk) about this achievement (a human climbing like a Gecko) which seems to have first occurred in 2012 but perhaps they want to emphasize that this particular demonstration occurred on a glass wall. In any event, I’m happy to get more news about DARPA’s Z-Man program. From the June 5, 2014 DARPA news release,

DARPA’s Z-Man program has demonstrated the first known human climbing of a glass wall using climbing devices inspired by geckos. The historic ascent involved a 218-pound climber ascending and descending 25 feet of glass, while also carrying an additional 50-pound load in one trial, with no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles. [emphasis mine] The novel polymer microstructure technology used in those paddles was developed for DARPA by Draper Laboratory of Cambridge, Mass. [Massachusetts]

Historically, gaining the high ground has always been an operational advantage for warfighters, but the climbing instruments on which they’re frequently forced to rely—tools such as ropes and ladders—have not advanced significantly for millennia. Not only can the use of such tools be overt and labor intensive, they also only allow for sequential climbing whereby the first climber often takes on the highest risk.

DARPA created the Z-Man program to overcome these limitations and deliver maximum safety and flexibility for maneuver and rapid response to warfighters operating in tight urban environments. The goal of the program is to develop biologically inspired climbing aids to enable warfighters carrying a full combat load to scale vertical walls constructed from typical building materials.

“The gecko is one of the champion climbers in the Animal Kingdom, so it was natural for DARPA to look to it for inspiration in overcoming some of the maneuver challenges that U.S. forces face in urban environments,” said Dr. Matt Goodman, the DARPA program manager for Z-Man. “Like many of the capabilities that the Department of Defense pursues, we saw with vertical climbing that nature had long since evolved the means to efficiently achieve it. The challenge to our performer team was to understand the biology and physics in play when geckos climb and then reverse-engineer those dynamics into an artificial system for use by humans.”

Geckos can climb on a wide variety of surfaces, including smooth surfaces like glass, with adhesive pressures of 15-30 pounds per square inch for each limb, meaning that a gecko can hang its entire body by one toe. The anatomy of a gecko toe consists of a microscopic hierarchical structure composed of stalk-like setae (100 microns in length, 2 microns in radius). From individual setae, a bundle of hundreds of terminal tips called spatulae (approximately 200 nanometers in diameter at their widest) branch out and contact the climbing surface.

A gecko is able to climb on glass by using physical bond interactions—specifically van der Waals intermolecular forces—between the spatulae and a surface to adhere reversibly, resulting in easy attachment and removal of the gecko’s toes from the surface. The van der Waals mechanism implied that it is the size and shape of the spatulae tips that affect adhesive performance, not specific surface chemistry. This suggested that there were design principles and physical models derived from nature that might enable scientists to fabricate an adhesive inspired by gecko toes.

Humans, of course, have much more weight to carry than a gecko. One of the initial challenges in developing a device to support human climbing was the issue of scaling: a typical Tokay gecko weighs 200 grams, while an average human male weighs 75 kilograms. To enable dynamic climbing like a gecko at this larger scale required that the engineers create climbing paddles capable of balancing sufficient adhesive forces in both the shear (parallel to the vertical surface) and normal (perpendicular to the vertical surface) directions. That feature is necessary for a climber to remain adhered on a surface without falling off while in the act of attaching and detaching the paddles with each movement.

The Draper Laboratory team was also challenged to create novel micro- and nanofabrication technologies to produce the high-aspect-ratio microstructures found in the gecko toe. In the process of achieving that capability, the Z-Man performers transformed the fundamental design and development of reversible adhesives for potential biomedical, industrial, and consumer applications.

The first human climbing demonstration occurred in February 2012 and tests of the technology are ongoing. [emphasis mine]

I’m guessing that glass is difficult to photograph because the image which accompanies the DARPA news release doesn’t highlight the achievement in quite the way one would expect,

During testing, an operator climbed 25 feet vertically on a glass surface using no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles. The climber wore, but did not require, the use of a safety belay. Image: DARPA

During testing, an operator climbed 25 feet vertically on a glass surface using no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles. The climber wore, but did not require, the use of a safety belay. Image: DARPA

I last wrote about Z-man in an April 3, 2012 posting highlighting some DARPA-funded work being done at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst while also mentioning work being done in other labs not associated (to my knowledge) with DARPA.

I was not successful in my attempts to find a video highlighting this ‘glass wall’ achievement but I did find this episode of Science Friction, where the host, Rusty Ward, does a very nice job of describing the technology (van der Waals forces, the nanostructures allowing spiders and geckos to climb all sorts of surfaces, etc.) along with some pop culture references (Spider-Man),

This runs for approximately 5 mins. 30 secs., a bit longer than usual for a video embedded here.

One last note, for anyone curious the laboratory referenced in the news release, you can find more here at the (Charles Stark) Draper Laboratory Wikipedia entry.

Forever dry, nanotechnology-enabled swim shorts for men and a design that intentionally or not is demeaning

It seems like a pretty good idea, swimwear that doesn’t get wet, as noted in the Frank Anthony Kickstarter campaign (the comments about the design are after the technology descriptions),

We were tired of having to change shorts every time you leave the beach, having car seats soaked and not being able to go from the beach to a restaurant. We decided to look at different topical applications for use but shortly found out they changed the texture of the fabric and had no way of being used on garments. We decided to scrap the idea and look for the perfect alternative. We found the leading textile manufacturer who specializes in high performance nanotechnology fabrics operating out of Switzerland, and focused extensively on creating the most visually appealing and scientifically advanced pair of swim shorts in the world.

The technical description leaves a little to be desired, from the campaign page,

The fabric we use has a hydrophobic nanostructure inside the actual fabric itself, making it breathable and completely safe for use. We are currently the only swimwear company on the market using this hydrophobic nanotechnology fabric. This fabric has proven to drastically reduce dry-times by up to 95% in contrast to regular 100% polyester swim shorts.

The shorts are manufactured in Italy with Swiss Fabric.

What is Swiss fabric? There are synthetics, cotton, linen, etc.  There’s even a ‘dotted Swiss’ but that’s a sheer cotton. Perhaps the writer meant Swiss-made fabric. As for the “hydrophobic nanostructure [i.e., water-repelling like a lotus leaf],” does this mean some Swiss manufacturer has developed a new technique? This is possible, Teijin, a Japanese multinational, claimed they’d produced a fabric having nanoscale properties that were carried over to the macroscale in a July 19, 2010 about a fabric based on the nanostructures found on a Morpho butterfly’s wing.

Getting back to the swimshorts, they can be washed (how do you clean something with water when it repels water?),

Yes, they should be washed with like colours and there is no need to iron or dry clean them. The Hydrophobic Nanotechnology is not affected by any form of washing and will not deteriorate.

I found a possible answer to the ‘washing question from the comments section of this Kickstarter campaign,

… our shorts are made up of billions of nanoscale whisker like barriers preventing any water based liquid from absorption. When the shorts are fully submerged underwater you will see a silver appearance on the exterior. This is [sic] the air bubbles the nanotechnology is creating around the garment protecting it from the water surrounding the short. When you come out of the water, the most our users will experience are droplets on the exterior of the short, there will be no actual water absorbed within the fabric itself due to it’s nano structure. We’ve found this makes our shorts dry on average 95% faster then any other swim short on the market using polyester or nylon. I hope this helps clear things up. Thanks for your support!

So, the shorts do get wet but dry very, very quickly.

There is a May 23, 2014 article by Amanda Kooser for CNET.com which features an interview with Franky Shaw, CEO (chief executive officer) of the start-up company producing the swim shorts,

“We have created a unique polyester blend that incorporates hydrophobic nanotechnology within the fabric, making it completely free of any hazardous effects topical nanotechnology coatings may possess. With the nanotechnology inside the fabric preventing all water-based substances from absorption, you are able to freely wash our shorts just like any other clothing item, without the fear of reducing its hydrophobic capabilities,” says Shaw.

Interestingly, while this news is making a bit of splash and is being featured on a number of site along with pictures, no one is including this Lexis design,

[downloaded from http://www.frankanthonyshorts.com/collections/all]

[downloaded from http://www.frankanthonyshorts.com/collections/all]

I’m trying to imagine who’d wear this with an image placed so the model appears to be staring into his (the wearer’s) crotch, mouth held invitingly open.

Given the May 23, 2014 killings in Isla Vista, California (you can find an accounting of this extended killing spree in a May 25, 2014 article in the National Post), the Lexis design provides an unexpected (I don’t usually see this sort of thing in nanotechnology-enabled product marketing) example of the pervasive nature of the disrespect offered to women.

From a May 25, 2014 essay by Katie McDonough on Salon.com, Note: Links have been removed,

We don’t yet know much about the six innocent women and men who were killed in Isla Vista, California late Friday night [May 23, 2014], but we have come to know a few things about the man who is alleged to have murdered them. Hours before he is believed to have fatally stabbed and shot six people and wounded 13 others in that coastal college town, Elliot Rodger filmed a video of himself — palm trees behind him, the glow of an orange sun highlighting his young face — and vowed to get “revenge against humanity.”

There’s a lot more in the video, and the 140-page “manifesto” he left in his apartment. Rodger felt victimized by women, whom he appeared to desire and loathe simultaneously. He expressed anger and resentment toward other men, often because of their relationships with women. …

It would be irresponsible to lay this violence at the feet of the men’s rights activists with whom Rodger seemed to find support for his rage. Rodger is alleged to have murdered six women and men. No amount of Internet vitriol — no unfulfilled threats of violence — can equal that. But it also denies reality to pretend that Rodger’s sense of masculine entitlement and views about women didn’t matter or somehow existed in a vacuum. The horror of Rodger’s alleged crimes is unique, but the distorted way he understood himself as a man and the violence with which he discussed women — the bleak and dehumanizing way he judged them — is not. Just as we examine our culture of guns once again in the wake of yet another mass shooting, we must also examine our culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity, which devalues both women’s and men’s lives and worth, and inflicts real and daily harm. We must examine the dangerous normative values that treat women as less than human, and that make them — according to Elliot Rodger — deserving of death. [emphasis mine]

McDonough’s May 27, 2014 posting about Rodger has a title that allows me to take my commentary on the Lexis design from one of mere bad taste to an indication of something far more disturbing, “Rebecca Solnit on Elliot Rodger: “He fits into a culture of rage,” “a culture that considers women tools and playthings and property.”  Getting back to Lexis, she’s on a pair of swim shorts where she looks as if she’s perpetually ready to perform a sexual act. She is at once a tool, a plaything, and a piece of property.

This is a Canadian (based in Toronto, Ontario according to the Kickstarter page) company and their Frank Anthony swim short Kickstarter campaign is doing well having achieved over $20,000 in pledges towards at $10,000 goal and with 26 days left.

Final questions, did the model know how her image was going to be used? Is the company getting orders for the Lexis design? If so, how many? And, why in God’s name hasn’t the company removed that design from its marketing collateral and from production?

I think that bit in McDonough’s essay where she notes that both men’s and women’s lives are devalued by misogyny and objectification is in that category of observations that is least understood by the people who most need it. I offer my sympathies to all those affected by the killings and injuries in Isla Vista.

Futuristic fashion with Biocouture and other future-focused clothing companies

Suzanne Lee and her ‘green tea’ couture are being featured in a May 20, 2014 article by Adele Peters about futuristic fashion and a new documentary, ‘The Next Black’, for Fast Company,

Fabric grown from bacteria. T-shirt designs that “refresh” themselves. Or how about a new way to dye fabrics without water or pollution? These are ideas for the future of fashion that blend style and sustainability.

Biocouture is growing new fabric from bacteria using a process more like brewing beer than making any other textiles. The company hopes that eventually clothing could be grown directly on dress forms, creating zero waste. …

Studio XO, a company pioneering interactive digital fashion, shares their vision for a “Tumblr for the body”–a subscription service for clothing that could automatically refresh itself as you wear it (picture a T-shirt with an ever-evolving print curated by designers or your friends). …

You can find the full 45 min. documentary embedded in the Peters article. You can also find additional information about Suzanne Lee’s work in my June 8, 2012 post titled, Material changes, which also features other designers.

“I write in praise of air,” a catalytic poem absorbing air pollutants on a nanotechnology-enabled billboard

The poem ‘In Praise of Air’, which is on a billboard at the University of Sheffield (UK), is quite literally catalytic. From a May 15, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

Simon [Armitage], Professor of Poetry at the University, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science Professor Tony Ryan, have collaborated to create a catalytic poem called In Praise of Air – printed on material containing a formula invented at the University which is capable of purifying its surroundings.

Here’s what the billboard looks like,

Courtesy of the University of Sheffield

Courtesy of the University of Sheffield

A May 14, 2014 University of Sheffield news release, which originated the news item, has more details about the project from the scientist’s perspective,

This cheap technology could also be applied to billboards and advertisements alongside congested roads to cut pollution.

Professor Ryan, who came up with the idea of using treated materials to cleanse the air, said: “This is a fun collaboration between science and the arts to highlight a very serious issue of poor air quality in our towns and cities.

“The science behind this is an additive which delivers a real environmental benefit that could actually help cut disease and save lives.

“This poem alone will eradicate the nitrogen oxide pollution created by about 20 cars every day.”

He added: “If every banner, flag or advertising poster in the country did this, we’d have much better air quality. It would add less than £100 to the cost of a poster and would turn advertisements into catalysts in more ways than one. The countless thousands of poster sites that are selling us cars beside our roads could be cleaning up emissions at the same time.”

The 10m x 20m piece of material which the poem is printed on is coated with microscopic pollution-eating particles of titanium dioxide which use sunlight and oxygen to react with nitrogen oxide pollutants and purify the air.

Professor Ryan has been campaigning for some time to have his ingredient added to washing detergent in the UK as part of his Catalytic Clothing project. If manufacturers added it, the UK would meet one of its air quality targets in one step.

The news release also describes the arts component and poet’s perspective on this project,

The poem will be on display on the side of the University’s Alfred Denny Building, Western Bank, for one year and its unveiling also marks the launch of this year’s Sheffield Lyric Festival which takes place between 14-17 May 2014 at the University’s Firth Hall.

At a special celebratory event on Thursday (May 15 2014), Simon will read In Praise of Air for the first time in public and Professor Ryan will explain the technology behind the catalytic poem. Volunteers will be wearing catalytic T-shirts.

Dr Joanna Gavins, from the University’s School of English, project manager for the catalytic poem collaboration, who also leads the Lyric Festival, said: “This highlights the innovation and creativity at the heart of the University and its research excellence.

“We are delighted that such a significant event will help launch this year’s Lyric Festival which also features poetry readings by students of the MA in Creative Writing, alongside internationally renowned writers such as Sinead Morrissey and Benjamin Zephaniah, and music from celebrated Sheffield songwriter, Nat Johnson.”

Simon added: “There’s a legacy of poems in public places in Sheffield and, on behalf of the University, I wanted to be part of that dialogue to show what we could do.

“I wanted to write a poem that was approachable, that might catch the attention of the passer-by and the wandering mind, and one that had some local relevance too. But I also hope it’s robust and intricate enough to sustain deeper enquiries – the School of English looks towards it for one thing, and I’d like to think it’s capable of getting the thumbs up or at least a nod from their direction, and from the big-brained students walking up and down Western Bank, and from discerning residents in the neighbourhood.”

He added: “I’ve enjoyed working with the scientists and the science, trying to weave the message into the words, wanting to collaborate both conceptually and with the physical manifestation of the work.

“Poetry often comes out with the intimate and the personal, so it’s strange to think of a piece in such an exposed place, written so large and so bold. I hope the spelling is right!

For the curious, here’s a link to the In Praise of Air project website where you’ll find the poem and much more,

I write in praise of air.  I was six or five
when a conjurer opened my knotted fist
and I held in my palm the whole of the sky.
I’ve carried it with me ever since.

Let air be a major god, its being
and touch, its breast-milk always tilted
to the lips.  Both dragonfly and Boeing
dangle in its see-through nothingness…

Among the jumbled bric-a-brac I keep
a padlocked treasure-chest of empty space,
and on days when thoughts are fuddled with smog
or civilization crosses the street

with a white handkerchief over its mouth
and cars blow kisses to our lips from theirs
I turn the key, throw back the lid, breathe deep.
My first word, everyone’s  first word, was air.

I like this poem a lot and find it quite inspirational for one of my own projects.

Getting back to Tony Ryan, he and his Catalytic Clothing project have been mentioned here in a Feb. 24, 2012 posting (Catalytic Clothing debuts its kilts at Edinburgh International Science Festival) and in a July 8, 2011 posting featuring a collaboration between Ryan and Professor Helen Storey at the London College of Fashion (Nanotechnology-enabled Catalytic Clothes look good and clean the air). The 2012 posting has an image of two kilted gentlemen and the 2011 posting has a video highlighting one of the dresses, some music from Radiohead, and the ideas behind the project.

You can find out more about Catalytic Clothing and the Lyric Festival (from the news release),

Catalytic Clothing

To find out more about the catalytic clothing project visit http://www.catalytic-clothing.org

Lyric Festival

The Lyric Festival is the [University of Sheffield] Faculty of Arts and Humanities’ annual celebration of the written and spoken word. Each May the festival brings some of the UK’s most renowned and respected writers, broadcasters, academics, and performers to the University, as well as showcasing the talent of Faculty students and staff. For more information visit http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/lyric

One last note about the University of Sheffield, it’s the academic home for Professor Richard Jones who wrote one of my favourite books about nanotechnology, Soft Machines (featured in my earliest pieces here, a May 6, 2008 posting). He is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor – Research & Innovation at the university and a blogger on his Soft Machines blog where he writes about innovation and research in the UK and where you’ll also find a link to purchase his book.

ETA May 20, 2014: A May 19, 2014 article by JW Dowey for Earth Times offers more details about the technology,

Titanium dioxide coating on cars and aircraft have revolutionised protective nanotechnology. The University of Sheffield has set the target as absorbing the poisonous compounds from vehicle exhausts. Tony Ryan is the professor of physical chemistry in charge of adapting self-cleaning window technology to pollution solutions. The 10m x20m poster they now use on the Alfred Denny university building demonstrates how nitrogen oxides from 20 cars per day could be absorbed efficiently by roadside absorption.

There are more tidbits to be had in the article including the extra cost (£100) of adding the protective coating to the ‘poetic’ billboard (or hoarding as they say in the UK).

Textiles laced with carbon nanotubes for clothing that protects against poison gas

The last time I featured carbon nanotube-infused clothing was in a Nov. 4, 2013 post featuring a $20,000+ bulletproof business suit. It now seems that carbon nanotubes in clothing might also be used to protect the wearer against poison gases (from a May 7, 2014 news item on Nanowerk; Note:  A link has been removed),

Nerve agents are among the world’s most feared chemical weapons, but scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a way to engineer carbon nanotubes to dismantle the molecules of a major class of these chemicals (“Functionalized, carbon nanotube material for the catalytic degradation of organophosphate nerve agents”). In principle, they say, the nanotubes could be woven into clothing that destroys the nerve agents on contact before they reach the skin.

A May 6, 2014 US NIST news release, which originated the news item, describes the research in more detail,

The team’s experiments show that [carbon] nanotubes—special molecules that resemble cylinders formed of chicken wire—can be combined with a copper-based catalyst able to break apart a key chemical bond in the class of nerve agents that includes Sarin. A small amount of catalyst can break this bond in a large number of molecules, potentially rendering a nerve agent far less harmful. Because nanotubes further enhance the breakdown capability of the catalyst and can be woven into fabric easily, the NIST team members say the findings could help protect military personnel involved in cleanup operations.

Sarin—used in a 1995 Tokyo subway attack—is one of several deadly nerve agents of a group called organophosphates. Many are classified as weapons of mass destruction. While organophosphates are harmful if inhaled, they also are dangerous if absorbed through the skin, and can be even be re-released from clothing if not thoroughly decontaminated.

To protect themselves during research, the team did not work with actual nerve agents, but instead used a “mimic molecule” that contains a chemical bond identical to the one found in organophosphates. Breaking this bond splits the molecule into pieces that are far less dangerous.

The team developed a way to attach the catalyst molecule to the nanotubes and then tested the effectiveness of the tube-catalyst complex to break the bonds. To perform the test, the complex was deposited onto a small sheet of paper and put into a solution containing the mimic molecule. For comparison, the catalyst without nanotubes was tested simultaneously in a different solution. Then it was a simple matter of stirring and watching chemistry in action.

“The solution was initially transparent, almost like water,” says the team’s John Heddleston, “but as soon as we added the paper, the solution started to turn yellow as the breakdown product accumulated. Measuring this color change over time told us the amount and rate of catalysis. We began to see a noticeable difference within an hour, and the longer we left it, the more yellow it became.” The catalyst-nanotube complex far outperformed the catalyst alone.

Principal investigator Angela Hight Walker says that several questions will need to be addressed before catalytic nanotubes start showing up in clothing, such as whether it is better to add the catalyst to the nanotubes before or after they are woven into the fabric.

“We’d also like to find ways to make the catalytic reaction go faster, which is always better,” Hight Walker says. “But our research group has been focusing on the fundamental science of nanoparticles for years, so we are in a good position to answer these questions.”

It’s not clear to me if this technique of combining carbon nanotubes with copper for protection against poison gas will affect, adversely or otherwise, the bulletproofing properties associated with carbon nanotubes. In any event, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper from the NIST researchers,

Functionalized, carbon nanotube material for the catalytic degradation of organophosphate nerve agents by Mark M. Bailey, John M. Heddleston, Jeffrey Davis, Jessica L. Staymates, & Angela R. Hight Walker.  Nano Research March 2014, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 390-398

This paper is behind a paywall.

Move over laser—the graphene/carbon nanotube spaser is here, on your t-shirt

This research graphene/carbon nanotube research comes from Australia according to an April 16, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

A team of researchers from Monash University’s [Australia] Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering (ECSE) has modelled the world’s first spaser …

An April 16, 2014 Monash University news release, which originated the new item, describes the spaser and its relationship to lasers,,

A new version of “spaser” technology being investigated could mean that mobile phones become so small, efficient, and flexible they could be printed on clothing.

A spaser is effectively a nanoscale laser or nanolaser. It emits a beam of light through the vibration of free electrons, rather than the space-consuming electromagnetic wave emission process of a traditional laser.

The news release also provides more details about the graphene/carbon nanotube spaser research and the possibility of turning t-shirts into telephones,

PhD student and lead researcher Chanaka Rupasinghe said the modelled spaser design using carbon would offer many advantages.

“Other spasers designed to date are made of gold or silver nanoparticles and semiconductor quantum dots while our device would be comprised of a graphene resonator and a carbon nanotube gain element,” Chanaka said.

“The use of carbon means our spaser would be more robust and flexible, would operate at high temperatures, and be eco-friendly.

“Because of these properties, there is the possibility that in the future an extremely thin mobile phone could be printed on clothing.”

Spaser-based devices can be used as an alternative to current transistor-based devices such as microprocessors, memory, and displays to overcome current miniaturising and bandwidth limitations.

The researchers chose to develop the spaser using graphene and carbon nanotubes. They are more than a hundred times stronger than steel and can conduct heat and electricity much better than copper. They can also withstand high temperatures.

Their research showed for the first time that graphene and carbon nanotubes can interact and transfer energy to each other through light. These optical interactions are very fast and energy-efficient, and so are suitable for applications such as computer chips.

“Graphene and carbon nanotubes can be used in applications where you need strong, lightweight, conducting, and thermally stable materials due to their outstanding mechanical, electrical and optical properties. They have been tested as nanoscale antennas, electric conductors and waveguides,” Chanaka said.

Chanaka said a spaser generated high-intensity electric fields concentrated into a nanoscale space. These are much stronger than those generated by illuminating metal nanoparticles by a laser in applications such as cancer therapy.

“Scientists have already found ways to guide nanoparticles close to cancer cells. We can move graphene and carbon nanotubes following those techniques and use the high concentrate fields generated through the spasing phenomena to destroy individual cancer cells without harming the healthy cells in the body,” Chanaka said

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Spaser Made of Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes by Chanaka Rupasinghe, Ivan D. Rukhlenko, and Malin Premaratne. ACS Nano, 2014, 8 (3), pp 2431–2438. DOI: 10.1021/nn406015d Publication Date (Web): February 23, 2014
Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

Smart suits for US soldiers—an update of sorts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The US military has funded a program named: ‘Dynamic Multifunctional Material for a Second Skin Program’ through its Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Chemical and Biological Technologies Department and Sharon Gaudin’s Feb. 20,  2014 article for Computer World offers a bit of an update on this project,which was first reported in 2012,

A U.S. soldier is on patrol with his squad when he kneels to check something out, unknowingly putting his knee into a puddle of contaminants.

The soldier isn’t harmed, though, because he or she is wearing a smart suit that immediately senses the threat and transforms the material covering his knee into a protective state that repels the potential deadly bacteria.

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federal government research facility in Livermore, Calif., are using nanotechnology to create clothing designed to protect U.S. soldiers from chemical and biological attacks.

“The threat is nanoscale so we need to work in the nano realm, which helps to keep it light and breathable,” said Francesco Fornasiero, a staff scientist at the lab. “If you have a nano-size threat, you need a nano-sized defense.”

Fornasiero said the task is a difficult one, and the suits may not be ready for the field for another 10 to 20 years. [emphasis mine]

One option is to use carbon nanotubes in a layer of the suit’s fabric. Sweat and air would be able to easily move through the nanotubes. However, the diameter of the nanotubes is smaller than the diameter of bacteria and viruses. That means they would not be able to pass through the tubes and reach the person wearing the suit.

However, chemicals that might be used in a chemical attack are small enough to fit through the nanotubes. To block them, researchers are adding a layer of polymer threads that extend up from the top of the nanotubes, like stalks of grass coming up from the ground.

The threads are designed to recognize the presence of chemical agents. When that happens, they swell and collapse on top of the nanotubes, blocking anything from entering them.

A second option that the Lawrence Livermore scientists are working on involves similar carbon nanotubes but with catalytic components in a polymer mesh that sits on top of the nanotubes. The components would destroy any chemical agents they come in contact with. After the chemicals are destroyed, they are shed off, enabling the suit to handle multiple attacks.

An October 6, 2012 (NR-12-10-06) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) news release details the -project and the proponents,

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists and collaborators are developing a new military uniform material that repels chemical and biological agents using a novel carbon nanotube fabric.

The material will be designed to undergo a rapid transition from a breathable state to a protective state. The highly breathable membranes would have pores made of a few-nanometer-wide vertically aligned carbon nanotubes that are surface modified with a chemical warfare agent-responsive functional layer. Response to the threat would be triggered by direct chemical warfare agent attack to the membrane surface, at which time the fabric would switch to a protective state by closing the CNT pore entrance or by shedding the contaminated surface layer.

High breathability is a critical requirement for protective clothing to prevent heat-stress and exhaustion when military personnel are engaged in missions in contaminated environments. Current protective military uniforms are based on heavyweight full-barrier protection or permeable adsorptive protective overgarments that cannot meet the critical demand of simultaneous high comfort and protection, and provide a passive rather than active response to an environmental threat.

To provide high breathability, the new composite material will take advantage of the unique transport properties of carbon nanotube pores, which have two orders of magnitude faster gas transport rates when compared with any other pore of similar size.

“We have demonstrated that our small-size prototype carbon nanotube membranes can provide outstanding breathability in spite of the very small pore sizes and porosity,” said Sangil Kim, another LLNL scientist in the Biosciences and Biotechnology Division. “With our collaborators, we will develop large area functionalized CNT membranes.”

Biological agents, such as bacteria or viruses, are close to 10 nanometers in size. Because the membrane pores on the uniform are only a few nanometers wide, these membranes will easily block biological agents.

However, chemical agents are much smaller in size and require the membrane pores to be able to react to block the threat. To create a multifunctional membrane, the team will surface modify the original prototype carbon nanotube membranes with chemical threat responsive functional groups. The functional groups on the membrane will sense and block the threat like gatekeepers on entrance. A second response scheme also will be developed: Similar to how a living skin peels off when challenged with dangerous external factors, the fabric will exfoliate upon reaction with the chemical agent. In this way, the fabric will be able to block chemical agents such as sulfur mustard (blister agent), GD and VX nerve agents, toxins such as staphylococcal enterotoxin and biological spores such as anthrax.

The project is funded for $13 million over five years with LLNL as the lead institution. The Livermore team is made up of Fornasiero [Francesco Fornasiero], Kim and Kuang Jen Wu. Other collaborators and institutions involved in the project include Timothy Swager at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jerry Shan at Rutgers University, Ken Carter, James Watkins, and Jeffrey Morse at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Heidi Schreuder-Gibson at Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center, and Robert Praino at Chasm Technologies Inc.

“Development of chemical threat responsive carbon nanotube membranes is a great example of novel material’s potential to provide innovative solutions for the Department of Defense CB needs,” said Tracee Harris, the DTRA science and technology manager for the Dynamic Multifunctional Material for a Second Skin Program. “This futuristic uniform would allow our military forces to operate safely for extended time periods and successfully complete their missions in environments contaminated with chemical and biological warfare agents.”

The Laboratory has a history in developing carbon nanotubes for a wide range of applications including desalination. “We have an advanced carbon nanotube platform to build and expand to make advancements in the protective fabric material for this new project,” Wu said.

The new uniforms could be deployed in the field in less than 10 years. [emphasis mine]

Since Gaudin’s 2014 article quotes one of the LLNL’s scientists, Francesco Fornasiero, with an estimate for the suit’s deployment into the field as 10 – 20 years as opposed to the “less than 10 years” estimated in the news release, I’m guessing the problem has proved more complex than was first anticipated.

For anyone who’s interested in more details about  US soldiers and nanotechnology,

  • May 1, 2013 article by Max Cacas for Signal Online provides more details about the overall Smart Skin programme and its goals.
  • Nov. 15, 2013 article by Kris Walker for Azonano.com describes the Smart Skin project along with others including the intriguingly titled: ‘Warrior Web’.
  • website for MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies Note: The MIT researcher mentioned in the LLNL news release is a faculty member of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.
  • website for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency