Nano-based textiles and fabrics: an overview


The concept of clothing is constantly changing thanks to innovations in wearable technologies. A new revolution in this sector concerns nano-designed functional textiles, opening up vast possibilities for nano-based textiles, attracting researchers from different fields.

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Nano-based textiles have been developed based on increasing customer demand for multi-functional wearable materials. Nanomaterials could provide many additional functions to fabric, such as stain resistance, anti-wrinkle, anti-static properties and electrical conductivity of fibers without compromising initial comfort.

Textile is considered an ideal substrate for the incorporation of nanomaterials, in addition to the development of electronic and optical devices. Such textiles integrated with nanomaterials could be developed for devices such as sensors, data transmitters and processing units.

These nanoparticle-based textiles and fabrics are integrated into clothing while maintaining the intrinsic flexibility and comfort of the textile. There should also be no allergic reaction to the body.

Nanotechnology applications in textiles

Water-repellent fabrics were created by forming hydrocarbon nanomoustaches. This concept is inspired by the lotus leaves of nature, where the drop of water slides on the leaves without wetting them. The distance between the whiskers is such that it is smaller than the size of the droplet and larger than the size of the water molecule, providing high surface tension for the water droplet.

Fabrics coated with carbon nanotubes mimicking the structures of lotus leaves have been studied as hydrophobic fabrics. Other techniques explored to obtain water-repellent fabrics have resulted in the creation of three-dimensional surface structures or the coating of textiles with nano-based films.

Oil-repellent and water-repellent fabrics were implemented simultaneously using silicon dioxide (SiO2) nanoparticles, surface treated with separate chemicals to induce hydrophobicity and oleophobicity.

In general, hydrophobic fabrics develop high static charges in the fabric, while the moisture content of hydrophilic fabrics limits the development of static charges.

Titanium dioxide (TiO2), zinc oxide (ZnO) and doped tin oxide (SnO2) nanoparticles have been explored to develop antistatic fabrics. These nanoparticles are electrically conductive, limiting the development of static charges.

Wrinkle-resistant fabrics have been reported with the incorporation of TiO2 nanoparticles with special coatings. These TiO coated2 the nanoparticles develop cross-linking with cellulose molecules in the cotton fabric, which prevents wrinkling of the fabric.

Nanotubes have been explored further to improve fabric strength by using carbon nanotubes embedded in polymeric composite fibers.

Semiconductor nanoparticles are excellent absorbers and diffusers of light in the ultraviolet wavelength region. The size of these nanoparticles can be adjusted to scatter light of different wavelength regions.

For example, TiO2 the nanoparticles synthesized by the sol-gel method, having a size between 20 and 40 nm, can scatter light in the wavelength region of 200 to 400 nm. These incorporated textile nanoparticles show a UV protection effect.

Nanomaterials with antibacterial properties such as silver (Ag), TiO2, ZnO nanoparticles are used to develop antibacterial and antifungal properties on textiles. Ag nanoparticles are effective in slowing the growth of bacteria that cause body odor and itching. The application of Ag nanoparticles in socks has been shown to be effective in preventing bacterial and fungal growth.

Nasiol hydrophobic nanocoatings for textile surfaces

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Nano-based textiles for electronics

Nano-based textiles have shown enormous applications in electronic devices. Electrically conductive polymers like polypyrrole (PPy), polythiophene (PT) and polyaniline (PANI) have been explored to develop sensors and actuators in textile materials. It has been reported that field effect transistors in flexible logic circuits have been developed through these conductive polymers.

Conductive textiles have been developed through the incorporation of layered graphene into a cotton fabric, as disclosed in a publication. The electrical conductivity was found to be improved by three orders of magnitude with increasing cycles of graphene coating on the fabric.

Nanotechnology textiles have also been reported for several energy storage devices. The PANI carbon nanotube and composite textile were investigated as a flexible supercapacitor in a study. This supercapacitor was developed in combination with a photovoltaic device to build a self-powered tissue.

Another study reports nanotechnology-based textiles for energy production. The encapsulation of carbon black nanoparticles in a thin layer of polymer made it possible to collect the electrostatic energy generated by contact and friction.

Wire-based supercapacitors with the ability to restore the broken wire electrode have been developed. The electrodes were made by encapsulating the magnetic material in a polymer shell. The broken wire could self-heal due to the magnetic attraction and the polymer shell could regain the mechanical strength of the wire.

Textiles with integrated diodes have applications in electronic circuits. For example, the Schottky diode integrated on materials involves the deposition of ZnO nanodigers on textiles coated with Ag.

Textiles capable of detecting temperature, humidity and pressure have been studied. Here, the sensor is created via photolithography and inkjet printing techniques. In another report, the metal-organic framework created on cotton fabrics embedded with quantum nanodigers showed applications in colorimetric sensors for the detection of toxic gases.

A study conducted at the University of Arkansas in the United States reported clothing made from nano-designed textiles indicating applications in the telemedicine industry. This technique allows monitoring of the physical condition of the body on a daily basis.

Are nano-based textiles toxic?

The major challenge with nano-based textiles is that their use cannot be as casual as other everyday materials. For example, the release of nanoparticles when washing clothing has been reported. This release depends on the method of incorporating the nanomaterials into the fabric, the washing procedure and the detergent composition used for washing.

Considerable amounts of Ag nanoparticles were released when washing tissues incorporating Ag nanoparticles, which is highly toxic to aquatic life.

The toxic effect of nanoparticle-based textiles on human health has not been widely studied. In addition, the available data are questionable and depend on several parameters of the nanomaterial, which makes it incomparable.

Nano-based textiles and the future

As shown in many studies, there are countless textile and nano based textile applications such as medicine, military, fashion / entertainment, sportswear and many more.

Along with the benefits of nanotechnology-based textiles and fabrics come various risk factors. A good public awareness of these textiles and a broad and adequate assessment of their use and disposal could help to overcome the risk factors.

Continue reading: Nanofabrication: Techniques and Industrial Applications.

References and further reading

Yetisen, AK, Qu, H., Manbachi, A., Butt, H., Dokmeci, MR, Hinestroza, JP, Skorobogatiy, M., Khademhosseini, A. and Yun, SH (2016) Nanotechnology in textiles. ACS nano, 10 (3), pp. 3042-3068. Available at:

Syduzzaman, MD, Patwary, SU, Farhana, K. and Ahmed, S. (2015) Smart textiles and nanotechnology: a general overview. J. Text. Sci. Eng, 5 (1). Available at:

Saleem, H. and Zaidi, SJ (2020) Sustainable use of nanomaterials in textiles and their environmental impact. Materials, 13 (22), p.5134. Available at:

Shateri-Khalilabad, M. and Yazdanshenas, ME (2013) Manufacture of electrically conductive cotton textiles using graphene. Carbohydrate polymers, 96 (1), p.190-195. Available at:

Huang, Y., Huang, Y., Zhu, M., Meng, W., Pei, Z., Liu, C., Hu, H. and Zhi, C. (2015) Magnetic assistance, self-healing, supercapacitor yarn-based. ACS nano, 9 (6), p.6242-6251. Available at:

Rai, P., Oh, S., Shyamkumar, P., Ramasamy, M., Harbaugh, RE and Varadan, VK (2013) Nano-bio-textile sensors with wireless mobile platform for wearable health monitoring neurological and cardiovascular disorders. Journal of the Electrochemical Society, 161 (2), p.B3116. Available at:

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