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THIS MONTH'S ESSAY
"Clothes Make the Man . . . or Man Makes the Clothes . . . or What?"
"Clothes Make the Man." Proverb: The style of quality of people's clothing is often an indicator of their character, and also has a tendency to affect both the way that others judge them and the way that they behave . . . First recorded in English c. 1400, the proverb is of ancient origin and is echoed in other languages. The sentiment it expresses occurs frequently in literature, notably in Shakespeare's play Hamlet (1:3), "The apparel oft proclaims the man . . ." Proverbs expressing the opposite meaning: an ape's an ape; a varlet's a varlet, though dressed in silk or scarlet; clothes don't make the man. (n1)
"Man Makes the Clothes." The first rayon fiber was produced by Count Hilaire de Chardonnet, an inventive Frenchman referred to as the "Father of Rayon." It was his dream to produce an artificial silk. In 1884, he did create a fiber by chemical means, which he presented at the 1889 Paris Exhibition. It proved to be a sensation, and was called "artificial silk" until nearly a half century later when the term rayon was coined. (n2) Rayon was the first major synthetic (fiber) to be produced [commercially], starting in 1910. Acetate production began in the 1920s, followed by the production of synthetic nylon . . . in the 1930s. During the 1940s production of . . . metallic fibers . . . and olefin began. During the 1950s, acrylic, polyester, triacetate and spandex came onto the market. By the mid 1970s, polyester had clearly emerged as the major synthetic in the U.S. By the end of the 1970s, polyester led all fibers - including cotton. (n3)
Over the last few years, essays on the summer site have included information on biotechnology, nanotechnology, radio frequency identification (RFID), and a number of other topics. Some of those topics, like petroleum/gasoline and "green" cars, are ones a person might think about often. Others, like nanotechnology, are subjects one might think about rarely, if at all. (All past essays can be found in the "Essay Archives" section.) This year's series will close with "a little bit of style," or a few passing thoughts about the clothes everyone wears and the fibers from which they are made. The topic is one which most people generally would not associate with a series on consumer-related science and technology, but consider the following quote: "Fashion designers see garments as an expression of creativity . . . Chemists and materials scientist[s] see garments as a collection of molecules." (n4)
Molecules? Yes, molecules. Surprising as it may seem, much of today's clothing either would not exist or would be very different if it weren't for products which began one day in a chemist's lab. Before continuing with an explanation, however, a few terms are presented below for clarification.
Fibers are the basic unit of all textile products. Fibers are spun into yarn, which is then either woven or knitted into fabric (both yarn and fabric are considered as textiles). Fabric is then dyed, printed or otherwise "finished" with softeners, wrinkle-resistance resins or other processes, and clothing is produced from the fabric. (n5) Other uses of textiles include home goods (furnishings, bedding, etc.), floor coverings and industrial applications, but this essay primarily will discuss apparel. Fibers are either natural or man-made. Natural fibers include ones derived directly from plants or animals such as wool, cotton, linen and silk. Natural fibers have been in use for thousands of years. For example, linen (made from flax) "may have been used for weaving in the Nile Valley [of Egypt] as early as 4000 B.C., . . . and the Bible also contains numerous references to the use of linen." (n6)
Cotton is the most widely-used natural fiber, but even as a natural fiber it has been touched by science. Consider the following:
-- The four principal biotech crops are soybeans, maize (corn), cotton and canola. (n7)
-- China is the largest producer of cotton in the world, with 68 percent of its 5.4 million hectares [of cotton] successfully planted with [genetically modified] Bt cotton in 2009. (n8)
-- The deployment of [genetically modified] Bt cotton over the last few years has resulted in India becoming the number one exporter of cotton globally as well as the second largest cotton producer in the world . . . Bt cotton in India is . . . 87 percent of the . . . national cotton crop. (n9)
-- Biotech cotton occupies up to 90 percent or more of the national area of cotton in the U.S.A. (n10) (For more information on genetically-modified (GM) products, see the 2004 essays in the Essay Archives.)
Man-Made (Manufactured) Fibers
Man-made (also called "manufactured") fibers are either inorganic or organic. Inorganic man-made fibers are made of carbon, ceramics, glass, or metal - generally not fibers used in clothing. A small percentage of organic man-made fibers are made by the transformation of natural polymers such as cellulose from plants, but the vast majority are made from synthetic polymers derived primarily from petroleum/petrochemicals, natural gas or coal, and air and water. (n11)
Most man-made fibers are referred to by their generic names, names familiar to most people from the labels in clothing. Some of these fibers (and the year in which they were first produced commercially in the U.S.) include rayon (1910), acetate (1924), nylon (1939), olefin (1949), acrylic (1950), polyester (1953), and spandex (1959). (n12) Companies may have generic trade names for the fibers they produce (du Pont's polyester is called Dacron, Hoechst Celanese's polyester is called Trevira, etc.), but only the generic fiber names appear on the standardized labels inside clothing.
GETTING BACK TO MOLECULES
Information on labels in clothing was mandated by the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act of 1958 (85th Congress, Public Law 85-897, 15 U.S.C. 70, 72 Stat. 1717). Rules and regulations under the Act as monitored by the Federal Trade Commission can be found in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, 16 CFR 303. (The full text of the rules and regulations is available online at www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/textile/rr-textl.shtm.) While a consumer might think of clothing made from manufactured fibers or fiber blends (such as 60 percent cotton, 40 percent polyester) in terms of how the clothing washes, whether it can be dry cleaned or if it is soft or wears well, none of these characteristics are included in the actual definition of what a manufactured fiber is. As an example, the actual definitions of acrylic, spandex and polyester are included here from the Code of Federal Regulations. (Caution: One may need a chemistry degree to understand exactly what these definitions mean!)
Acrylic: A manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is any long chain synthetic polymer composed of at least 85 percent by weight of acrylonitrile units.
Spandex: A manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is a long chain synthetic polymer comprised of at least 85 percent of a segmented polyurethane.
Polyester: A manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is any long chain synthetic polymer composed of at least 85 percent by weight of an ester of a substituted aromatic carboxylic acid, including but not restricted to substituted terephthalate units,
and para substituted hydroxy-benzoate units,
(1) Where the fiber is formed by the interaction of two or more chemically distinct polymers (of which none exceeds 85 percent by weight), and contains ester
groups as the dominant functional unit (at least 85 percent by weight of the total polymer content of the fiber), and which, if stretched at least 100 percent, durably and
rapidly reverts substantially to its unstretched length when the tension is removed, the term elasterell-p may be used as a generic description of the fiber.
Most consumers will never need to know the exact molecular definition of the fibers in the clothes they wear. However, understanding the molecular nature of the fibers may be useful in gaining perspective on what the future of state-of-the-art fibers, textiles and fabrics might be.
100 YEARS OF MANUFACTURED FIBERS
If manufactured fibers were first produced commercially in 1910, then 2010 might by considered the 100th anniversary of manufactured fibers. In those 100 years, the manufactured fiber industry "has been pursued with such scientific curiosity and zeal, and has produced an array of products with such a great range of properties, that it has in a short time affected every aspect of modern life." (n14) While "the first half of the 20th Century was marked by the introduction of a large number of synthetic fibers, . . . the second half of the century [was marked] by their rapid adoption by consumers." (n15) In the U.S. in 2007, total consumption of cotton, wool and manufactured fibers (for use in products manufactured in U.S. mills) was about 83 percent manufactured fibers and 17 percent wool and cotton, though for apparel products the split was roughly 48 percent for cotton, 2 percent for wool and 50 percent for manufactured fibers. (n16) Globally, in 2009 the textile market had total revenues of about $1.037.6 billion, of which about 32 percent, or $334.5 billion was for apparel. (n17)
In addition to the fibers used in everyday apparel, specialty manufactured fibers have come to have significant uses in fields like law enforcement and the military, with benefits that often trickle down to the consumer sector. One class of these specialty fibers is known by the generic name aramids (definition - a manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is a long-chain synthetic polyamide in which at least 85 percent of the amide linkages are attached directly to two aromatic rings (n18)), forming what are referred to as ballistic textiles. Probably the best-known of these is du Pont's Kevlar, used by law enforcement in bullet resistant vests, but also used to strengthen consumer products as basic as bicycle tires.
"A lot of ballistic textile research and development is conducted at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Extension Center . . . (see the Natick site at www.natick.army.mil/soldier, or visit the Natick Warfighter Science, Technology and Applied Research Directorate at www.natick.army.mil/soldier/about/ss&t/content.htm) in collaboration with fiber and ceramics companies, academic institutions and other entities, with a goal of developing ever lighter-weight, higher-performance materials that can improve a soldier's mobility, performance and comfort." (n19) Some of these textile improvements and enhancements are likely to trickle down into consumer products in the future. Right now, however, some of this research on improvements in manufactured fibers for both specialty and consumer uses is coming through the field of nanotechnology.
FUTURE FIBERS AND FABRICS AND NANOTECHNOLOGY
"Nano-scale science involves research to discover new behaviors and properties of materials with dimensions at the nano scale, which ranges from roughly 1 to 100 nanometers (nm). Nanotechnology is the way discoveries at the nanoscale are put to work." (n20) (You can read more about nanotechnology in general by visiting the National Nanotechnology Initiative website at www.nano.gov). Nanotechnology involves working with particles at a molecular level. An ant which is four millimeters long is one million times bigger than a nanoparticle which is four nanometers wide. Also, a large raindrop which is 2.5 millimeters in diameter is 1,000 times larger than a bacterium at 2.5 micrometers length, which in turn is 1,000 times larger than a piece of DNA which is 2.5 nanometers in diameter. (n21)
One company which is using nanotechnology advances to develop fabric treatments for clothing, active wear, casual and business attire, etc. is is Emeryville, California - based Nano-Tex (www.nano-tex.com). The company has developed several nanoparticle fabric treatments for a variety of improved features, some of which are already available to consumers through retailers from Sears and Target to Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean. (n22) (See the full list retailers/partners at www.nano-tex.com/company/brand_partners.html.) Some of the nanotechnology fabric treatments and their functions are listed below. (The names listed are the treatment trademark names; products are referred to on the company website in more consumer-friendly terms like "Dry Inside Performance Cotton," "Neutralizer" cotton knits, "Resists Static," "Speed Dry," "Resists Spills," and "All-Conditions Fleece.")
-- Nano-Pel: A technology for stain-resistance and oil-repellency [which] "develops hydrophobic fabric surfaces that are capable of repelling liquids and resisting stains, while complementing the other desirable fabric attributes such as breathability."
-- Nano-Touch: Nanotechnology treatments for "core-wrap" type[s] of fabric. "In core-wrap yarn or fabric, a core of usually synthetic fibers is wrapped with natural fibers, such as cotton. The (nano)-treated core component . . . provides high strength, permanent anti-static behavior and durability, while the traditionally-treated wrap component of the fabric provides desirable softness, comfort and aesthetic characteristics."
-- Nano-Care: Nanotechnology treatments which "produce wrinkle-free/resistant and shrink-proof fabrics made of cellulosic fibers such as cotton."
-- Nano-Dry: Nanotechnology treatments "for synthetic fabrics which allows the fabric to whisk away the contact body's moisture/sweat, which quickly evaporates to provide comfort to the wearer." (n23)
For an example of how the military is using nanotechnology research to make soldiers less vulnerable to enemy and environmental threats, visit MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology website at http://web.mit.edu/isn. The Institute is conducting research in five areas: 1) Light-weight, multifunctional nanostructured fibers and materials, 2) battle suit medicine, 3) blast and ballistic protection, 4) chemical and biological material detection and protection, and 5) nanosystems integration. (n24). In addition to these, another application which has been mentioned in related literature is the use of nanotechnology in fabrics for camoflage. This could lead to one potentially novel consumer use. "It is now conceivable that by combining optical fibers, micro mirrors, functional coatings and electronics, customized fabrics and garments can be developed which will change their colors as per the consumer's desire and taste." (n25)
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While some nanotechnology-based treatments for fabrics and apparel have already produced novel, useful and consumer-accepted products, there remains much research and testing to be done. Nanotechnology is still a new technology, and there are health concerns due to the unknown effects of the microscopic "nano-size" of the particles used (see the September 2007 essay for more information). However, as mentioned earlier, global textile and apparel markets markets are multi-billion dollar markets. By some estimates, "within a decade nanotechnology will have a market impact of hundreds of billions of dollars, and textiles will occupy an important share of that market." (n26) If the past 100 years serve as a guide, it is likely that science and technology will continue to combine with both functionality and fashion to produce fibers and fabrics with more than just "a little bit of style."
n3 - U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Special Report - The U.S. Textile and Apparel Industry: A Revolution in Progress, OTA-TET-332, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), April 1987, p. 39. (*)
n5 - MacDonald, Stephen, and Vollrath, Thomas, The Forces Shaping World Cotton Consumption After the Multifiber Arrangement, CWS-05c-01, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April 2005, p. 3. Available online at www.ers.usda.gov. (*)
n23 - A.P.S. Sawhney, B. Condon, K.V. Singh, S.S. Pang, G. Li and David Hui, "Modern Applications of Nanotechnology," Textile Research Journal, Vol. 78(8): 731, 2008, p. 734-735. Online version of article viewed September 2010 at http://trj.sagepub.com/content/78/8/731. (*)
LINKS INCLUDED IN ESSAY - The following are links included in the essay.
BIBLIOGRAPHY - The following is the Bibliography for the September 2010 essay.
Clive, James. Global Status of Commercial Biotech/GM Crops: 2009, ISAAA Brief No. 41, Ithaca, New York: ISAAA, 2009. Viewed online at www.isaaa.org, September 2010.
Datamonitor, Industry Profiles: Global Textiles, New York: Datamonitor USA, August 2010.
International Bureau for the Standardization of Man-Made Fibers (BIFSA). Terminology of Man-Made Fibers, 2009 Edition, Brussels, Belgium: BIFSA, 2009.
Jerde, Judith. Encyclopedia of Textiles, New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1992.
MacDonald, Stephen, and Vollrath, Thomas. The Forces Shaping World Cotton Consumption After the Multifiber Arrangement, CWS-05c-01, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April 2005. Available online at www.ers.usda.gov.
Manser, Martin H.. Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs, 2nd Edition, New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2007.
Rodie, Janet Bealer. "Life-Saving Fabrics," Textile World, Vol. 159, No. 3, May/June 2009, pp. 22 - 25.
Rozelle, Walter N. "Man Made Fiber Chart 1998," Textile World, Vol. 148, No. 8, August 1998, p. 72.
Sawhney, A.P.S, Condon, B., Singh, K.V., Pang, S.S., Li, G., and Hui, David. "Modern Applications of Nanotechnology," Textile Research Journal, Vol. 78(8): 731, 2008, pp. 731 - 738. Online version of article viewed September 2010 at http://trj.sagepub.com/content/78/8/731.
Ulrich, Clare. "Nano-Textiles are Engineering a Safer World," Human Ecology, Vol. 34, No. 2, New York: Cornell University, November 2006, pp. 2 - 5.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Statistical Abstract of the United States, Washington D.C.: 129th Edition, 2010, Table No. 989, p. 628.
U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. 16 CFR 303.7, January 1, 2010 edition, Washington D.C.: U.S. GPO, 2010.
U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. Special Report - The U.S. Textile and Apparel Industry: A Revolution in Progress, OTA-TET-332, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), April 1987.
U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative. "Nanotechnology: Big Things from a Tiny World," Arlington, Virginia: National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, (no date listed). Viewed online September 2010 at www.nano.gov.
Yuankai, Tang. "Power Dressing," Beijing Review, Vol. 51, No. 49, pp. 44 - 45.
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