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Creating the future of textiles (part 3)

October 1st, 2010 / By: / Markets, Technical

Fabric as we know it is transformed with electrical conductive nanocoatings.

Part III of a series by speakers at the Advanced Textiles Conference 2010. Part I covers developments in advanced textiles, Part II addresses developments in auxetic materials and Part IV covers the potential of nanomaterials in creative applications. Part V examines the push for sustainability.

What are the newest, most exciting or intriguing developments in advanced textiles?

The most exciting trend is that developers are looking beyond regular fabrics as we know them. Being able to choose the starting fabric construction for certain properties (strength, porosity, stretch, thickness and so forth), and subsequently control the end-surface resistivity with customized conductive polymer coatings, allows for a variety of applications.

In this way, there has been an abundance of new applications created for textiles. For instance, e-textiles are electrically active and allow one to build advanced products as dynamic pressure sensors, resistive heaters, radar-absorbing composites, and collapsible and low-radar, cross-section antennas. Advancements in nanotechnology have helped to apply these to fibers and fabrics, as the size of nanoparticles is much smaller than the dimensions of yarns.

EeonTex™ fabrics absorb 40–50 percent of the radiation waves they receive. Another 15 percent is transmitted and is invisible because it never returns to the radar. Just by applying EeonTex fabric to the exterior of an object, the radar cross-section is cut by two-thirds. For example, in the case of moving wind turbine blades, the blades can be nearly impossible to distinguish from airplanes on many radar systems, “and can even cause blackout zones in which planes disappear from radar entirely,” according to a recent article in The New York Times. Eeonyx Radar Absorbing Fabrics can solve this problem if used as composite-reinforcing material.

Who is driving new developments, the researchers or the market?

I think it is driven from both ends. At Eeonyx, we receive a few dozens calls each week from excited product developers who request all kinds of samples. At the same time, we see a growing number of patents and papers in this field.

What is the market demanding and how is your company responding to market demands?

The market is demanding new and high-performance materials and Eeonyx is active in research and development. Energy-absorbing EeonTex fabrics are currently in use to create artificial horizons at airports, antenna systems for ocean-going vessels, camouflage netting, and even collapsible radiating antennas for use in the field. Our line of conductive polymer coatings can be applied to yarns, fabrics, felts, foams, films, powders, and plastic parts over a large range of tunable resistances.

Are new technologies finding their applications and markets? If so, where is the most robust growth occurring, or likely to occur in the near future? If not, what’s holding up the implementation of new technologies?

The applications and products mentioned above are commercial. Sensory fabrics and fabric heaters, and radar-absorbing composites should offer unique solutions in medical, industrial, safety, defense and homeland security sectors.

Our EeonTex coatings, for example, are an excellent choice for clean room garments because they provide a truly static-free surface and they are washable up to 40 times. In fact, static decay on EeonTex-coated fabric happens 100 times faster than comparable carbon-coated products, and since EeonTex is applied in a completely uniform, nano-scale manner, there are no “hot” or “cold” spots.

Traditional resistive heaters run a current through heating coils in a blanket or garment; a thermal scan of this type of product would show uneven and inefficient heat distribution. But with EeonTex fabrics the whole surface of the fabric is conductive, allowing safe, efficient, uniform heating. Because the fabric is the conductor, there is nothing to break in these warming blankets, making them suitable for extreme conditions in which the inelasticity of traditional warming solutions renders them susceptible to the elements.

Eeonyx resistive heaters are in use in hospital grade warming blankets, high-end, all-weather boots, and even in a “chameleon camo” technical vest for Special Forces applications. The vest has been further modified to respond to heat by changing color from black to desert-pattern camouflage.

What new products or processes are being developed now that will have the most profound impact on the way in which end product manufacturers do business tomorrow?

There are many interesting advanced products and technologies; among them are spacer fabrics, nano-yarns, self-cleaning fabrics, piezoelectric fabrics, light-emitting fabrics and solar fabric panels. Eeonyx is focusing on using several nanotechnology approaches to solve customer and market needs. A conductive yarn (EeonYarn™) process was recently developed to address demand in more durable, electrically active textiles. This product line allows us to make washable yarns with electrical conductivity tunable within a wide range. Applications for EeonYarn™ include radar-absorbing fabrics and composites, resistive fabric heaters and woven pressure sensors. Our company’s lineup of products all have specifiable degrees of conductivity, and engineers are discovering more uses for them all the time.

Dr. Jamshid Avloni is president of Eeonyx Corporation, San Francisco, Calif. His topic at the Advanced Textiles Conference 2010, October 26–27, Orlando, Fla., is piezoresistive e-fabrics. He is presenting at the seminar, “Advanced Applications in Battle and Military Medical Fields.”

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