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Putting Nanotech to good use!


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Cutting-Edge Science Creates Stain-Free Pants

Wed Jul 23, 8:06 AM ET Add Technology - Reuters to My Yahoo!

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists are wrestling with individual atoms to develop molecule-sized computers, tiny cancer-fighting robots that travel the bloodstream ... and stain-resistant trousers.

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Nanotechnology -- the science of manipulating materials billionths of a meter (meter) wide -- has emerged as a promising new field that could lead to stunning advances in years to come.

Boosters claim that nanotech-derived products may some day cure disease, slow the aging process and eliminate pollution.

But for now, the human race will have to settle for tennis balls that keep their bounce longer, flat-panel displays that shine brighter and wrinkle-free khaki slacks that resist coffee stains.

"People are saying, 'Geez, this isn't Star Trek yet; this is just pants that don't stain,' but you've got to start somewhere," said Howard Lovy, news editor of the nanotech industry journal Small Times. "I'm wearing nano-pants as we speak."

Those stain-resistant pants and bouncy tennis balls have their advantages, thanks to a fundamental principle of small science: Different scales lead to different results. Just as a silver necklace may sparkle against your skin but tiny silver particles in your bloodstream will turn your skin blue, common substances like sunscreen and rubber take on entirely different characteristics when assembled at a molecular level.

Sunscreen makers have found that zinc oxide -- the dense white cream lifeguards put on their noses -- turns transparent and silky when made from smaller particles, which cover the skin more thoroughly and do not reflect light.

Procter and Gamble has added tiny zinc oxide particles to its Olay Complete UV Protective Moisture Lotion, a product aimed at mall matrons rather than beach bums.

"It goes on really light and sheer and doesn't leave a residue, so therefore people are much more apt to use it on a daily basis," said Maria Burquest, a Procter and Gamble product spokeswoman.


Wilson's Double Core tennis balls claim to retain their air pressure twice as long as normal tennis balls because of a rubber core that uses tiny "nanoclay" particles to form an airtight seal.

On the ski slopes, VailSoft Corp.'s Cerax "racing polymers" claim to provide greater speed and control than conventional ski waxes due to a nanotech structure that holds up in a wide variety of snow conditions.

Eastman Kodak Co.'s EasyShare LS633 digital camera features a brighter, more power-efficient display built from specially designed carbon-based molecules. Such "OLED" displays should soon show up as television sets, computer screens and eventually printed on flexible plastic sheets that can be woven into clothing.

Probably the most visible nanotech product to date are the stain- and wrinkle-resistant slacks developed by Greensboro, North Carolina-based Nano-Tex LLC and sold by Eddie Bauer, Lee Jeans and several other retailers.

Billions of tiny whiskers create a thin cushion of air above the cotton fabric, smoothing out wrinkles and allowing liquids to bead up and roll off without a trace.

The whiskers are added by dipping cotton fabric in a proprietary chemical solution before the fabric is cut, said Nano-Tex spokeswoman Dolores Sides. Because the particles are so small, they easily penetrate the fabric and coat each cotton thread completely without changing the way it looks or feels, she said.

The company has developed similar stain-resistant products for synthetic fibers and upholstery. One new product wraps synthetic fibers in an organic, cotton-like substance to create a garment that combines the longevity of polyester with the comfortable feel of natural fabric, she said.

The "nano-care" pants have sold well since they were first introduced in 2001, an Eddie Bauer spokeswoman said, even though they cost $10 more than ordinary khakis. The company now offers nano-care shirts as well, and plans to introduce stain-resistant jackets in the fall, she said.

Now if they can just invent nano-briefs we're in business! :D
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If you thought that was worth posting, then I'm sure you'll love this..


POPULAR SCIENCE) -- Dockers recently came out with a new brand of pants, the Go Khakis, which promise to keep your legs stain-free using revolutionary nanotechnology.

We couldn't help thinking that Dockers might be using the word "nanotechnology" more for marketing muscle than for true scientific purposes, so we called its customer service line to ask a few pointed questions. Here's a slice of the conversation.

Dockers: How can I help you today?

Popular Science: I just bought a pair of the Go Khakis, and I noticed it says they use something called nanotechnology for stain resistance. Can you please explain how that works?

D: Umm, it's, uh, DuPont Teflon coating, and basically what we're asking you to do is not to use powdered detergent and press them after every fifth wash, and dry cleaning is an option also. And do not use fabric softener, because it can interfere with that stain-defending property.

PS: Great, but can you explain what makes this nanotechnology rather than just a coating? What is nanotechnology?

D: One moment please. Did you get the pleated or flat-front?

PS: Flat-front.

D: OK, one moment please. Because the one that says nanotechnology is the versatile pant that wicks moisture away from you.

PS: It says nanotechnology repels stains.

D: OK, one moment please. Can you give me a style number off that?

PS: Sorry, I don't have it with me. But it was a "stain defender," and I believe it said "Go Khaki."

D: And that was the flat-front one.

PS: I believe so.

D: OK, I believe it does say nanotechnology because it's the 60-cotton, 40-micropoly blend.

PS: So that's where the nanotechnology comes in?

D: Uh-huh.

PS: I still don't understand. Are there microscopic machines repelling the stain? How does it work?

D: Umm . . . I guess it's the type of fabric that makes it the nano.

PS: So the "nano" has more to do with the size of the fibers? And water is small enough to get through for washing, but other liquids are not—they bead up and roll off?

D: You know, I'm really not sure, but I do know they'll come clean. My kid has a pair of these. Messy kid. So I got the shirt and pants, and he's doing great with them. You just need to remember to press after every fifth wash.

PS: But would you say the stain defender was the Teflon coating or the size of the fibers?

D: It's a Teflon finish on the pants.

PS: So is nanotechnology affecting the stain resistance?

D: I would say not. I need to help other customers, ma'am. Can I ask how you got the number to call us today?

PS: 1-800-DOCKERS? Lucky guess.

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