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

December 22, 2009
These images from an electron microscope show wool fibers coated with the silica nanoparticles that may improve wool’s qualities. Credit: American Chemical Society

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.

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 of 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. The 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.

Explore further: 'Second skin' helps care for all

More information: "Fabricating Superhydrophilic Wool Fabrics", pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/la903562h

Related Stories

'Second skin' helps care for all

May 10, 2006

CSIRO scientists are creating a ‘second skin’ made from wool and Lycra to help protect the body against wounds and major traumas.

Wanted: A sheep in sheep's clothing

June 6, 2006

Australian scientists say they are looking for the ugliest merino lambs they can find in a study that may challenge the dominance of synthetic fibers.

Clothing to crow about: Chicken feather suits and dresses

January 12, 2009

In the future, you may snuggle up in warm, cozy sweats made of chicken feathers or jeans made of wheat, enjoying comfortable, durable new fabrics that are "green" and environmentally friendly. Researchers in Australia are ...

Award for turning wool into gold

August 31, 2009

A Victoria University (New Zealand) scientist has won a prestigious innovation award for turning pure New Zealand Merino wool into gold.

Recommended for you

Reshaping the solar spectrum to turn light to electricity

July 28, 2015

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense. The solar cells—made often of silicon or cadmium telluride—rarely cost more than 20 percent ...

Could stronger, tougher paper replace metal?

July 24, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland recently discovered that paper made of cellulose fibers is tougher and stronger the smaller the fibers get. For a long time, engineers have sought a material that is both strong (resistant ...

Changing the color of light

July 23, 2015

Researchers at the University of Delaware have received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to explore a new idea that could improve solar cells, medical imaging and even cancer treatments. Simply put, they want ...

Wafer-thin material heralds future of wearable technology

July 27, 2015

UOW's Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) has successfully pioneered a way to construct a flexible, foldable and lightweight energy storage device that provides the building blocks for next-generation ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ridelo
not rated yet Jan 02, 2010
Is this wool also antiallergic?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.