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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, a bi-weekly journal.
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 silica nanoparticles of 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. The particles 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.
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"Fabricating Superhydrophilic Wool Fabrics"
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Fangqiong Tang, Ph.D.
Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Beijing, People's Republic of China