2007-05-03 News Release
Nanotechnology Self Cleaning Effects for Textiles
Through nanotechnology Mincor TX TT, an innovative composite finishing material from BASF, emulates nature by keeping dirt and water at bay.
The lotus plant’s extraordinary ability to keep itself clean by
means of the ultrafine surface structures on its leaves has led to Buddhism’s
holy flower becoming rather a celebrity in our latitudes, too. Yet we
can also observe this self-cleaning effect on our own indigenous plants
such as the nasturtium, reed or lady’s mantle: water droplets just
roll off the surface of their leaves, taking particles of dirt along with
them. Learning from nature’s example, science has recognized that
it is not the smoothest possible surfaces but those with structures measuring
some dozens of nanometers that repel dirt and water most effectively.
The principle sounds simple, but its practical implementation on textiles with the aid of Mincor TX TT was a challenge for BASF’s nanotechnologists. The main objective was to optimize the processing and durability of the finishing. “The solution is a composite material consisting of nanoparticles firmly embedded in a carrier matrix”, explains Dr. Ralf Norenberg, Head of BASF’s Competence Center for Technical Textiles. The resulting composite has the required nanostructured surface, but does not release any nanoparticles, as extensive tests have proved.
In 2006, polyester awning fabrics finished with Mincor TX TT were very successful in achieving the transition from the laboratory to practical application, and fabrics for sunshades and sails treated with Mincor TX TT are also now in the trial phase. “This type of finishing is an ideal solution for these kind of fabrics that are continuously exposed to the outdoor elements and can’t be put in a washing machine”, says Norenberg. “The next shower of rain simply washes off the dirt, and in prolonged periods of dry weather all that’s needed is a brief shower from the garden hose.”
“With Mincor TX TT, BASF has for the first time made it possible to provide textiles with a genuine self-cleaning effect based on nanostructured surfaces like its model in nature”, comments Dr. Thomas Stegmaier of the Denkendorf Institute of Textile and Process Engineering (ITV). Countless products are now claimed to have a “lotus” or “nano” effect in order to boost their market potential. But these advertising claims are not always well founded: at most one third of these products, estimates Stegmaier, meet accepted definitions of nanotechnology as used for example by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). “To provide guidance for consumers at least where textiles are concerned, we have devised the seal of quality ‘Selfcleaning inspired by nature’ – and the first products that meet our strict standards for self-cleaning textiles and have been awarded the seal are polyester fabrics finished with Mincor TX TT.”
Mincor TX TT is already proving its worth on polyester awning fabric. Self-cleaning sunshades, flags and sails made from the finished synthetic fabric are approaching market launch. But the work of BASF’s researchers is still not finished, because the self-cleaning effect for textiles is also planned to make its mark in other areas of daily life in the near future – especially for dirt-repellent clothing. Here, the first challenge was also one of the toughest: the washing machine. During washing, textiles are subjected to enormous mechanical stress that gives the nanoscopic surface structures of the Mincor finishing a tough time.
By optimizing the binder, BASF’s development experts have succeeded
in giving Mincor much greater stability without having to make compromises
on the self-cleaning effect. “Basically, almost all types of textiles
are suitable, but we first concentrated on providing cotton with a washing
stable finishing of Mincor”, explains Dr. Michael Schmitt, Head
of the Global Development Unit for Textile Auxiliaries. Especially high-quality
textiles and working clothes subject to heavy stress and which are difficult
to clean could benefit from Mincor. But the Mincor effect, which makes
balsamico vinegar, red wine, ketchup and even honey roll off completely
without trace, could also mean fewer wash cycles for all other types of
clothing. All that is needed is a very thin layer of the composite material
which doesn’t impair the feel of the fabric in any way. While the
market launch of cotton fabrics and textiles treated with Mincor is imminent,
BASF is already working on further applications, such as treated surfaces
for dirt repellent wallpapers, soiling sensitive curtains and flawless
kitchen frontages would also be interesting.
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