Following the announcement of the strategic distribution partnership between Schoeller Technologies AG (NanoSphere® patent owner) and Clariant International Ltd. in September 2007, the finishing components have now also been aligned within the new cooperation. The new NanoSphere® finish not only achieves top results in terms of the self-cleaning effect and oil and water repellency as well as abrasion resistance and washing permanence. Due to the use of the most modern C6 fluorocarbon technology, NanoSphere® is also free of PFOA and PFOS. This combination of highest performance and highest ecological safety reinforces a worldwide unique position to the product developed in Switzerland.
What is "new" about NanoSphere®?
For the new NanoSphere®, the research team from Clariant and Schoeller have combined the latest technologies and developed a product that meets the highest demands of everyday life and is oriented toward the environmentally relevant demands of the future. The nanoparticle mix has been newly defined and a new generation of nanoparticles in a very stable matrix has come into use. Consequently the abrasion resistance has been increased. Through the use of future considered C6 fluorochemicals, the NanoSphere® finish is free of PFOA and PFOS. Due to the new recipe and nanoparticle mix, it still achieves an extremely high level of water, dirt and oil repellency and meets the most demanding washing and dry cleaning requirements. The finish is highly abrasion resistant and the protective function remains lastingly active, even when exposed to considerable load and after frequent washings.
What about the performance of the new NanoSphere® finish?
The performance is of the same high standard as the previous finish.
(See also What exactly is the effect of NanoSphere®? /What is so special about it?), but, most remarkably, the new finish is free of PFOS and PFOA*.
(BLOD = below limit of detection)*.
Can the nanoparticles come adrift?
No, because they are bound into a specially developed coating matrix which ensures that the millions of nanoparticles on the fabric's surface cannot come adrift so there is no danger that they will dissolve during washing, dry cleaning or ironing. Today’s nanoparticles are thermo-stable up to 1700°C. (See also "How can we be sure that no nanoparticles come adrift?")
Why are fluorochemicals used?
In the 21st Century, we have become used to many beneficial properties and functions of modern clothing and textiles. A high level of water, oil and dirt repellency are among the features commonplace in today’s clothing sector and are demanded by consumers. These properties are achieved through the use of classic fluorochemicals.
How are fluorochemicals produced?
The most widely used today are molecule chains known as C8. They consist of eight carbon atoms and 17 fluorine atoms. For some time now, C8 chemicals have been discussed in the context of PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulphonate) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid). C8 fluortelomeres are produced in a telomerization process, whereas PFOS-based chemicals are produced using electrochemical fluorination.
What is PFOS?
PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulphonate) is a biopersistent, bioaccumulative and toxic fluoro-organic compound (PBT substance). New legislation will come into force in the European Union on June 27, 2008, regulating the marketing and use of PFOS in all member states. It restricts the permissible level of PFOS in textiles or other coated materials to below one microgram per square meter (or to 1 ppm).
What is PFOA?
PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid), like PFOS, is biopersistent and has been detected at ppb levels (parts-per-billion*) in the environment and in human blood. For this reason, the responsible authorities, in particular the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), are searching for the sources from which PFOA originates and wants to clarify how PFOA has made its way into the environment and into the general population. At present, intensive investigations are being carried out to find the possible entry sources for PFOA. A withdrawal date for PFOA has been established for 2010.
* On 25 January, 2006 the telomer and pluorpolymere manufacturers were invited by the EPA to participate in a global stewardship programme relating to PFOA. This programme involves the reduction of PFOA emissions and the 95% reduction of the PFOA content in products by 2010 at the latest. From 2015 onwards, the use PFOA is to be forgone completely. At the same time, in its "PFOA Risk Assessment Draft" the EPA has also pointed out that on the basis of the information available to date, there is no reason for the consumer to forego industrial or consumer products based on perfluorinated compounds.
How does PFOS/PFOA develop?
PFOS is produced by electrochemical fluorination (ECF process). Among other areas of use, PFOS-based materials are also involved in the manufacturing of water and oil repellent products. However, the largest manufacturer discontinued production of this raw material in 2002. PFOA has been used for decades as an emulsifying agent in manufacturing polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and has been explicitly manufactured for this purpose. Although neither PFOA nor PFOS is used in manufacturing C8 fluortelomeres, PFOA traces can occur as contamination.
Why are C6 fluorochemicals future considered?
The most widely used are molecule chains known as C8. They consist of eight carbon atoms and 17 fluorine atoms. For some time now, C8 chemicals have been discussed in the context of PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulphonate) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid). (See also "How does PFOS/PFOA develop?). After intensive research and development cooperation, the NanoSphere® technology has been re-worked and now uses a future considered C6 fluorochemical (i.e., molecule chains consisting of 6 carbon atoms and 13 fluorine atoms). Even using highly sensitive measuring methods that detect contamination at 25 ppb (parts per billion), neither PFOS nor PFOA has been found. The new NanoSphere® finish is therefore considered to be free of PFOS and PFOA **. It combines modern functionality with the ecological standards that will apply to fluorochemicals in the future.
* 1 ppb is comparable to a drop of ink in one lane of a public swimming pool or one second in 32 years.
Is the application simple and safe?
The newly formulated components for this future considered finishing technology can be incorporated simply and directly into the finishing bath in specified quantities. The aqueous formulation ensures that nanoparticles cannot be inhaled during further processing in the manufacturing plants.
Does the new NanoSphere® finish have nano certification?
The new formulation has been examined by internationally renowned Hohenstein Research Institute. In original state and after mechanical exposure to 5000 abrasion cycles and 30 wash cycles (with subsequent heat treatment) the finish is certified as having a very high and lasting level of hydrophobic and oleophobic properties. "The new NanoSphere® finish is undoubtedly a nanotechnology," confirms Dr. Jan Beringer, the institute’s Head of Testing and Director of the Textile Services and Innovations Department. "We also tested the biological safety for possible biological activity (cytotoxicity and genotoxicity* or HET-CAM). NanoSphere® passed all tests with excellent ratings and is safe."
*Skin tolerance and the possible behavior in service have been examined through cytotoxicity and genotoxicity testing. In the cytotoxicity test, which is recognized and mandatory for all medical products, measurements are carried out to determine whether cell-toxic substances could be released during use. The genotoxicity test examines the possibility of a mutagenic effect of the chemical substances. Neither test revealed biological activity. Indicators for possible skin irritation or signs of a fabric intolerance were also examined. The HET-CAM, also known as the hen's egg test, is a process for examining the skin-tolerance of chemicals. The abbreviation stands for hen's egg test on chorioallantoic membrane.
What is NanoSphere®?
NanoSphere® is a new finishing technology which provides a natural self-cleaning effect and an extremely high level of water and dirt repellence. It is based on nanotechnology. By means of nanotechnology it became possible to transfer the non-stick and self-cleaning process of certain plants or insects observed in nature onto textiles. In order to do so, the surface of the textile was specifically altered using nanoparticles.
How does NanoSphere® work?
Normally, impregnated textiles have a smooth surface. Smooth surfaces offer dirt a large contact area to which it can easily adhere. With the NanoSphere® finish, on the other hand, a structured surface is created. This structured "hilly" surface offers barely a "foothold" for water, dirt and substances of any kind. They simply run off or can easily be rinsed off with a little water.
What are nano particles?
The term "nano“ describes a new dimension. A nanometer corresponds to a millionth of a millimeter. For NanoSphere®, different structure-providing inorganic nano particles are used.
What does NanoSphere® do exactly? /What is so special about it?
High water repellence
Water droplets, e.g. in persistent rain, run off NanoSphere® textiles simply and reliably.
Oil, dirt and dust do not adhere to the NanoSphere® surface, or can simply be rinsed off with a little water.
Permanent protective function
Due to the extremely high level of abrasion-proofing, the NanoSphere® protective function is permanently maintained even with heavy-duty use, frequent washing or cleaning.
How can I test it?
Take a piece of fabric or a purchased consumer product which has been given a NanoSphere® finish and drip some water, ketchup, honey, salad dressing, coke, red wine, etc. onto it. You will see that these substances simply run off. If there is any residue, it can be very easily rinsed off with a little water.
How is it different to normal impregnation?
It can generally be said, and indeed proven, that NanoSphere® has a better performance with regard to water, dirt and oil repellent properties as well as washing and cleaning permanence. And all this without affecting the breathability (see also "Does NanoSphere® affect the breathability of textiles"?).
Can I wash garments with a NanoSphere® finish?
Yes, with no difficulty. The washing permanence is actually somewhat higher when compared to others.
Can garments with NanoSphere® be dry cleaned?
Yes, textiles with a NanoSphere® finish can be dry cleaned without hesitation.
How long does NanoSphere® remain on the textile?
For a very long time. Garments can be washed or cleaned many times (depending on the basic material up to 50-70 times)
What can I do when the effect begins to wear off?
Heat treatment provided by ironing or placing in the tumble dryer reactivates the function. This applies to the entire service life of the garment.
Is NanoSphere® suitable for all types of textiles?
Yes, NanoSphere® can be applied without difficulty to almost all types and compositions of textiles. Where desired, and in order to have absolute certainty prior to production, testing can be carried out in the Clariant laboratories.
Does NanoSphere affect the breathability of textiles?
No, because no film or barrier forms. During the finishing phase with NanoSphere®, the textile goes through a water bath. Here the nanoparticles it contains wrap themselves around the individual fibers. The fiber interspaces are retained and breathability remains intact (see also "How is it different to normal impregnation?").
Can NanoSphere® also be applied to other materials?
We are active in the textile environment and can only speak for this area (see also "Is NanoSphere® suitable for all types of textiles"?)
What does abrasion resistance mean?
This means that even with severe exposure to abrasion (for example constant chaffing from a heavy rucksack at the shoulder, chest and back) the water and dirt repellent effect is not lost. This is not the case with classic impregnations.
Do all impregnations have abrasion resistance?
No, this special property is due to nanotechnology. It is a major added value factor, which we can guarantee through the new nanoparticles. The idea for these nanoparticles was developed by Schoeller and then actively implemented within the industry.
What does "naturally self-cleaning" mean?
There are different forms of "natural self-cleaning". Which of us has not had the experience of discovering that a salad oil or carrot stain on a shirt suddenly disappeared when exposed to a long period of sunlight? The wind too plays its part in clearing dirt. Sun and wind are not always at hand. Therefore we use the term "naturally self-cleaning" effect to describe a further form: the natural non-stick and cleaning effect of certain plants, beetles or insects. On the structured surface of a leaf or wing, water droplets simply sweep away any dirt particles as they roll off. The same happens with the NanoSphere® surface. With the aid of a little water, dirt particles and substances of all kinds can simply be rinsed off.
Can the NanoSphere® effect be compared with the "lotus effect"?
Yes. The lotus leaf also has a structured rather than a smooth surface and therefore remains clean. NanoSphere® functions in a similar way: Dirt cannot adhere well to the structured textile surface and rolls off by itself, or can be rinsed off with a little water.
Are textiles with NanoSphere® suitable for industrial laundering?
In many cases they are. But as different standards apply for industrial laundering in different countries and markets, we recommend carrying out a specific test first.
How is the quality of the different textiles with NanoSphere® finish guaranteed?
Every textile which is finished with NanoSphere® is recorded in a global test system. Directly after production, these textiles are submitted to the responsible Clariant laboratory and the functionality of the textiles examined. They are approved for sale to clothing manufacturers only when the quality corresponds 100% to the NanoSphere® quality criteria valid world wide.
Where can I order a NanoSphere® sample?
Simply under info(at)nano-sphere.ch Send a request by mail and you will immediately receive the initial information material together with a small textile sample. If you would like a demonstration of NanoSphere® on your own textile material, please contact Clariant.
What are the areas/markets for which NanoSphere® is suitable?
NanoSphere® makes good sense for almost all areas and markets. Starting with leisure wear, and on to sports outfits, business and workwear or home furnishings and technical textiles such as awnings or sun umbrellas. Because NanoSphere® makes life a little simpler and helps ensure that the textile products stay cleaner longer.
What about the effect of NanoSphere® on the environment?
Because NanoSphere® becomes soiled less easily, garments need less frequent washing and can be washed at lower temperatures. This saves water, energy and detergent and is positive for the environment.
Where can I order NanoSphere® labels?
Please contact Schoeller Technologies AG, in Switzerland. Simply send an e-mail to: Labeling(at)nano-sphere.ch.
Has the NanoSphere® technology been patented?
Yes, NanoSphere® is a patent-protected technology. The patents belong to Schoeller Technologies AG.
How can one recognize NanoSphere® products in retailing?
Numerous consumer products are identified by means of a hang tag or woven label or some other marketing tool at POS. You can also take a look at some of our customers (apparel brands) with links to their products under www.nano-sphere.ch.
Where can I order promotional material for NanoSphere®?
As a brand manufacturer with a "Trademark Agreement“ with Schoeller Technologies AG, you can look at all current promotional material and order directly under www.nano-sphere.ch in the category "promotional material“. For more comprehensive requests, please contact: marketing(at)nano-sphere.ch.
What do I have to do if I want a technology license?
Contact Clariant International AG or Schoeller Technologies AG or send an e-mail to ipr(at)nano-sphere.ch.
What do I have to do if I want a brand license?
Contact Schoeller Technologies AG or send an e-mail to ipr(at)nano-sphere.ch.
What does Clariant do?
Clariant International AG is responsible for the expansion of the license partner network (production), the sale of chemicals, technical support and quality control.
What does Schoeller do?
Schoeller Technologies AG is responsible for the distribution of the brands, marketing, branding and patent aspects of NanoSphere®.
Who is Clariant International AG?
Clariant is a global leader in the field of specialty chemicals. Strong business relationships, commitment to outstanding service and wide-ranging application know-how make Clariant a preferred partner for its customers.
Clariant, which is represented on five continents with over 100 group companies, employs about 21,500 people. Headquartered in Muttenz near Basel, Switzerland, it generated sales of CHF 8.5 billion in 2007.
Clariant’s businesses are organized in four divisions: Textile, Leather & Paper Chemicals; Pigments & Additives; Functional Chemicals; and Masterbatches.
Clariant is committed to sustainable growth springing from its own innovative strength. Clariant’s innovative products play a key role in its customers’ manufacturing and treatment processes or else add value to their end products. The Company’s success is based on the know-how of its people and their ability to identify new customer needs at an early stage and to work together with customers to develop innovative, efficient solutions.
Who is Schoeller Technologies AG?
Schoeller Technologies AG is a Swiss-based, globally active licensing company for innovative textile technologies. The company promotes the development of new, ground-breaking textile technologies through the use of international and interdisciplinary R&D teams and holds the intellectual property rights (patents and trademarks). In addition to the issuing of production and trademarks licenses, the company ensures their world-wide availability together with selected production partners. Schoeller Technologies AG also distributes technology products and supports the license holders on technical issues as well as in marketing and sales.
To whom does the patent belong?
It belongs to Schoeller Technologies AG.
What do we understand by nano technology?
Nanotechnology is primarily about a whole new dimension:
A nanometer = 1 millionth of a millimeter. Many sciences come together in research at this level. Be it chemistry, physics, biology or medicine – it could, in fact, be all sectors. We might see it in terms of nanotechnology building bridges to and from the other sciences. This is why completely new products can come into existence at this level. Nanotechnology is a cross sectional technology and is considered – even in the textile area – as a key technology of the 21st century.
How long has nano technology been in existence?
The nanometer level has always existed. We know, for example, that 2000 years ago the Egyptians used black paint in their hieroglyphics which consisted primarily of nano scale soot particles. So in this respect, "nano" or nanoparticles have been around a long time. But; it was not possible to access or control this dimension. Only with technological progress – with expensive special tools such as the AFM (atomic force microscope) or the scanning electron microscope (SEM) – did this level become visible and accessible.
What is nano and what is it not?
In the entire nano environment, it has not been possible to date to reach a uniform definition. In general, we speak of "nanotechnology" when structures below 100 nm can be specifically used or influenced.
Can the nano particles penetrate the skin?
No, this is not the case with the NanoSphere® finish. On one hand, the nanoparticles are bound in an special mix and then are firmly fixed onto the textiles at high temperatures and in a specially developed coating matrix. This is shown by both our permanence tests and analyses carried out by the Hohensteiner Institute.
How can we be sure that no nano particles come adrift?
NanoSphere® is being applied for years among other things in the Swiss operation of Schoeller Textile AG. In order to proactively examine the working conditions and the safety of the staff as well as those processing the materials in the textile chain and the consumer, elaborate waste air measurements were taken by a neutral body. The result: Not a single nanoparticle could be found. Everything is "under control" and there is no risk to staff, consumers, air or waste water.