Nano apparel prevents colds and flu

Fashion designers and fibre scientists at Cornell University have designed a garment that can prevent colds and flu and never needs washing. The team has also created another that destroys harmful gases and protects the wearer from smog and air pollution.

The two-toned gold dress and metallic denim jacket, featured at the April 21 Cornell Design League fashion show, contain cotton fabrics coated with nanoparticles that give them functional qualities never before seen in the fashion world.

Designed by Olivia Ong in the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, the garments were infused with their unusual qualities by fibre science assistant professor Juan Hinestroza and his postdoctoral researcher Hong Dong. Apparel design assistant professor Van Dyke Lewis launched the collaboration by introducing Ong to Hinestroza several months ago.

‘We think this is one of the first times that nanotechnology has entered the fashion world,’ Hinestroza said. He noted one drawback may be the garments’ price: one square yard of nano-treated cotton would cost about $10,000.

Ong’s dress and jacket are part of her original fashion line called “Glitterati”. They are packed with electrostatically charged nanoparticles creating a protective shield around the cotton fibres in the top part of the dress, and the sleeves, hood and pockets of the jacket.

Dong explained that the fabrics were created by dipping them in solutions containing nanoparticles synthesised in Hinestroza’s lab. The resultant colours are not the product of dyes, but rather, reflections of manipulation of particle size or arrangement.

The upper portion of the dress contains cotton coated with silver nanoparticles. Dong first created positively charged cotton fibres using ammonium- and epoxy-based reactions, inducing positive ionisation. The silver particles, about 10-20 nanometres across were synthesised in citric acid, which prevented nanoparticle agglomeration.

Dipping the positively charged cotton into the negatively charged silver nanoparticle solution resulted in the particles clinging to the cotton fibres.

Silver possesses natural antibacterial qualities that are strengthened at the nanoscale, giving Ong’s dress the ability to deactivate many harmful bacteria and viruses. The silver infusion also reduces the need to wash the garment, since it destroys bacteria, and the small size of the particles prevents soiling and stains.

The denim jacket includes a hood, sleeves and pockets with soft, grey tweed cotton embedded with palladium nanoparticles, about 5-10 nanometres in length. To create the material, Dong placed negatively charged palladium crystals onto positively charged cotton fibres.

Ong incorporated the resultant cotton fibre into a jacket with the ability to oxidise smog. Such properties would be useful for someone with allergies, or for protecting themselves from harmful gases in the contaminated air, such as in a crowded or polluted city.

Design student Olivia Ong hugs two garments, treated with metallic nanoparticles through a collaboration with fibre scientists Juan Hinestroza and Hong Dong, that she designed as part of her fashion line, “Glitterati”