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: Wanted: A sheep in sheep's clothing

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

Related Stories

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.

'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.

Recommended for you

Taming 'wild' electrons in graphene

October 23, 2017

Graphene - a one-atom-thick layer of the stuff in pencils - is a better conductor than copper and is very promising for electronic devices, but with one catch: Electrons that move through it can't be stopped.

Breakthrough in ultra-fast data processing at nanoscale

October 20, 2017

A research team from the National University of Singapore has recently invented a novel "converter" that can harness the speed and small size of plasmons for high frequency data processing and transmission in nanoelectronics.

Art advancing science at the nanoscale

October 18, 2017

Like many other scientists, Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., the Founding Director of the Wyss Institute, is concerned that non-scientists have become skeptical and even fearful of his field at a time when technology can offer solutions ...

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.