Textiles that protect against harmful environmental factors have been invented in Łódź by the team led by Professor Jadwiga Sójka-Ledakowicz. They can be used to produce almost anything, from shielding around transmitter stations to protective gloves for the staff at security printing works.
SUNLIGHT CAN cause cancer. Electromagnetic field can upset the endocrine system. And one spark in a mine can cause an explosion. The Textile Research Institute, a member of the Łukasiewicz Research Network, in collaboration with five other Polish universities and research centres, has invented specialist textiles which protect humans from electromagnetic fields, UV radiation or static electricity. Three groups of fabrics have been developed in the project ‘New generation barrier materials protecting man against harmful impacts of the environment’ – Envirotex.
Innovative Barrier Textiles
The first group protects from electromagnetic fields (EMFs). ‘We all know what the Faraday cage is. Our fabrics can easily replace it. They even have a broader application, because they attenuate the electromagnetic field in the frequency range from several dozen MHz to more than 2 GHz. Their attenuation exceeds 30 dB,’ explains Prof. Jadwiga Sójka-Ledakowicz, the project coordinator. In order to obtain textiles with such properties, the scientists applied the technique of magnetron sputtering – for the first time ever in textile research –in order to deposit thin metal coatings onto fabrics. The project team designed and manufactured a special device for that purpose.
‘It was a great scientific challenge to choose the right metal oxides and their alloys so that we could deposit an extremely thin layer onto polypropylene nonwoven and cause the material to acquire electroconductive properties,’ says Prof. SójkaLedakowicz.
The new textiles have a wide range of applications, e.g. in hospitals – as screens protecting persons who operate diagnostic equipment, in banks – as facing protecting server rooms from data leakage, or as shielding around transmitter stations.
Gloves, Roller Blinds, Screens
The second group are fabrics that protect from ultraviolet radiation in the ranges: UVA, UVB and UVC. The researchers have managed to develop two types of absorbers. The organic, triazine-based ones penetrate the structure of the fabric and absorb radiation. The inorganic ones based on micronised metal oxide particles are deposited on the textile in the form of a paste or dispersion; they reflect radiation. As a result, two types of protective materials with UPF > 40 have been developed, of which one can be used in the production of clothing elements and the other – in technical products such as roller blinds, screens, garden furniture etc.
Clothing and products made of the new textiles have been tested, for example, in museums and archives, but also by civil engineers, farmers and lifeguards working on the beach. ‘Staff at the security printing works who examine documents with UVC-emitting lamps have tested the gloves’, says the project coordinator.
The last group of fabrics protects against static electricity. This is the above mentioned example with the sparkover. The researchers have developed a technology to manufacture an electroconductive thread that can be used in the clothing of people working in areas at risk from static electricity. They have also developed conductive tapes for protective apparel.
The innovative solutions developed in the Envirotex project have obtained 17 patents, including international ones. Moreover, they have gained the interest of the industry. ‘We have signed licence agreements, know-how agreements and letters of intent. I trust that products using our fabrics will soon become available on the market,’ says Prof. Sójka-Ledakowicz.
Łukasiewicz Research Network
– Textiles Research Institute
Read more: „Science in Poland in 34 Snapshots”