Week 9 - Nanotechnology by Jane Chen

America, as it often seems, is known as the Land of Plenty.  From it’s discovery by Christopher Columbus to the Lewis and Clarke expeditions, America has proven itself to be full of rich resources, possessing vast open land suitable for settlement.  Now, centuries later, it seems like many things have become supersized.  From 7-Eleven’s Double Gulp at 64 0z (which can contain almost half a pound of sugar, mind you) and SUVs to shopping at Costco, where you need an SUV to haul all the bulk items home.  However, as many things are growing in size, technology seems to be shrinking.  As Intel’s TFLOPS supercomputer shrank from 6-foot stacks to a single microchip, nanotechnology gains more attention in the scientific world.  The potentials of nanotechnology are endless.  It can be applied to computer technology in producing CPUs, biomedical research for potential implantations or treatments for diseases, and chemical synthesis as well as molecular self-assembly.  Nevertheless, nanotechnology also has its downfalls.  Due to its relatively new introduction to science, there are many unknown factors that researchers deal with.  One of these is potential harmful exposure to nanoparticles.  Since nanoparticles are so small, and obviously not visible to the naked eye, they could cause health hazards to the people working in the laboratories.

Aside from the future potential of nanotechnology, one interesting direction that research has taken is in the clothing industry.  Scientists have developed many ideas in creating stainless, wrinkle-free clothing.  This is frequently seen in the market as cotton-polyester blends.  In actually, the cloth fibers have been coated with a special material (which varies according to brand and price) that repels water and oil, giving the clothing its “stainless” claim.  However, even the most waterproof jacket will essentially become wet if it is soaked in water for a long period of time.  As a result, a new type of material has been developed in which polyester fibers are coated with nano-sized silicone filaments, creating the most water-repellent material yet.  Although the fabric can stay intact even when rubbed vigorously, it could not survive an everyday washing machine cycle.  Nonetheless, its highly water-repellent properties foreshadow an era of self-cleaning clothing. Imagine if you never had to do a load of laundry again…

A drop of water on a piece of fabric treated with silicone nanoparticles

A drop of water on a piece of fabric treated with silicone nanoparticles

For more information:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16126-nanotech-clothing-fabric-never-gets-wet.html

by Jane Chen

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