New Delhi: Summers might just become more comfortable and less smelly experience, as IIT-Delhi in partnership with an industrial firm has developed a fabric that cuts out smell and keeps it fresh for the wearer despite sweating.
Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi’s SMITA (*Smart* Materials and Innovative Textile Applications) research lab has developed a nano-science based innovation that lends a fabric antimicrobial property, resulting in removal of smell despite presence of perspiration on it. “A fabric smells because of the presence of microbes on it. And our innovation based on nanosilver counters the microbial growth and thus keeps the fabric fresh for the wearer even though he or she may still be sweating,” team member Ashwini K Agrawal, professor at IIT-Delhi, said.
A nanoscale is one billionth part in a metric system or the scale of 10 raised to the power of minus 9. The finished product which has now gone commercial in India and European markets, was exhibited at the ‘I2Tech Open House’, organised recently at the IIT-Delhi campus.
“Silver is known to have antimicrobial properties and we just took it to the nanoscale and embedded the particles (less than 1 ppm or parts per million) so that the fabric retains its original colour and character,” Agrawal said.
Agrawal worked on the project alongside fellow faculty member Manjeet Jassal and then PhD student Sangita Paul. “The idea began in 2007. Sangeeta who has just finished her PhD on this very topic only worked on this project under our guidance and it’s a proud moment for both the student and us teachers that the project she worked on has gone commercial,” Agrawal added. While developing it, some of the major challenges we had to address were the stability of the nanofinishes after washing and retaining the colour of the fabric, he said.
“We did all the test for the fabric and it gives almost 100 per cent antimicrobial activity at extremely low concentrations and are durable to over 30 washes which is industry standard for lifetime of a fabric,” he said.
The product was funded by the Centre, Department of Science and Technology, Bangalore-based textile chemical company RESIL Chemicals, among others. "RESIL took keen interest in the project from very beginning which is unusual in India where corporate look for the finished project to market.
"But, RESIL gave us Rs 7 crore initially and took our research and development innovation to the product development for commercial distribution. And, thus the patent, filed last year, is also jointly held by IIT-Delhi and RESIL," he said.
"Department of Science and Technology gave us Rs 17 crore to bear investments on instrumentation and other ancillary costs. And, in fact RESIL has become so interested with this innovation that they have developed a dedicated R & D centre to study further improvements in this technology," Agrawal added.
While RESIL has branded it as "N9 Pure Silver" and distributing it to Indian and foreign firms, the professor said that it was in European Market that this product is getting better appreciation. "Retail giant 'Marks and Spencer (UK)' was the first company to launch the product in 2012 and termed it as "one of the best innovative technologies" and even showcased it at their headquarters for a month," Agrawal said.
The product is now also available with brands like DIM, Louise Phillipe, Urbana, UTC, Towels (UK), George Shirts (Bharti Walmart), Raymond, Amante, among others. Agrawal said that the product was also tested for safety and the German organisation Oeko-Tek has also granted its certification to it. "Well, so now, people can wear a shirt or something in summers and still feel fresh even though they may be drenched in sweat. Our technology does not reduce the perspiration content in the fabric it only counters the microbial growth in it. So, sweat or no seat, you are still fresh," Agrawal said.