This textile does not only make you look good. It also protects you from getting wet. More, it keeps you away from diseases caused by micro-organisms. A product of persistent research, this textile can truly be called smart.

“It has been a dream, until towards the end of 2012, when PTRI has finally developed a textile material that is comfortable, breathable but surprisingly water repellent and even anti-microbial,” revealed Dr. Carlos C. Tomboc, director of Philippine Textile Research Institute, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology.

The challenge to develop such technology came from DOST Secretary Mario Montejo who noted PTRI’s award-winning Christmas Belen made of taro leaves that were water-repellant. Since then, PTRI has been spinning possibilities into the broad range of functional and smart textiles.

This breakthrough research was carried out by a team of chemists of DOST-PTRI’s Chemical, Dyes, Auxiliaries and By-Product Utilization Section who came up with a finishing technology that makes fabrics water-repellant and anti-microbial.

Waterproof surfaces show the so-called “lotus effect,” referring to the lotus leaf’s ability to prevent water from drenching its surface. Tiny crystalline waxy bumps or protrusions and tiny hairs on the leaf’s surface trap the water droplet, stopping the water from reaching the lotus leaf’s actual surface.

To mimic this phenomenon, the team used several techniques, including chemical modifications via hydrophobic coatings and plasma treatments. After several attempts using various materials to make textile water repellent, the team was able to zero in on something that is just in the pocket: silver.

More particularly, the team discovered that silver nanoparticle and silver oxide nanocomposite can make cotton and pineapple fabrics water-repellent and even anti-microbial.

Silver is a known for its ability to kill various microorganisms, thus when used as repellant in textiles, it gives protection against microbe-caused diseases.

According to Jeannie Lynn J. Cabansag and Evangeline Flor P. Manalang, both registered chemists and the project leader and research staff, they used silver nanoparticles and submerged these in silicone oxide solution then applied to various textile materials.

The team found silver to be active against Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphyllococcus aureus which cause pneumonia and skin infections respectively. The silver oxide thus was noted for its water-repellent property and, together with the silver nanoparticles, the combination resulted in a water-repellant, anti-microbial finishing for fabrics made of pineapple and cotton.

Conventional water repellent finishes literally form a coating on textile surfaces which compromises the breathability and comfort of cotton-based fabrics. Anti-microbial properties would be provided by yet another finishing.

However, in this technology, the finishing is applied on the fiber and yarns of the material and the anti-microbial properties of the silver nanoparticles are already dispersed in the silica network. With this, comfort and form are not necessarily traded-off over function.

This development is part of the string of PTRI-developed technologies that integrates nanotechnology to textile finishing, now coined as “nanofinishing.” This new technology produces smart, bio-functional, and truly Philippine-made textiles.

Water particles are unable to seep through the textile. This is called the lotus-effect.

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