Harrick Plasma

Synthetic textiles such as polyester or nylon have many desirable properties, including low cost and moisture-wicking ability. However, synthetic fabrics shed large amounts of microplastics when the fabric rubs against itself during washing. These microplastics end up in waterways and oceans, where they are ingested by aquatic organisms and humans. Due to their unknown health effects and inability to biodegrade, microplastics are a serious concern.

To reduce microplastic shedding from nylon fabrics, Lahiri et. al. attempted to lower the surface friction of nylon. First, Lahiri increased the nylon’s surface energy by treating the fabric in Harrick Plasma’s High Power Expanded Plasma Cleaner. Next, the fabric was dip-coated in a primer solution which easily adhered to the plasma-treated surface. Lahiri then plasma-treated the fabric again to create silanol groups on the primer layer. Finally, the sample was coated with DCTMS, which formed polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) brushes upon reaction with the primer. These PDMS brushes had a liquid-like nature which reduced the surface friction of the nylon fabric by about 3.5 times. Lahiri found that this reduced surface friction lowered the microplastic shedding of nylon by more than 90%, even after multiple washes.

Shabanian et. al. built upon Lahiri’s work by improving the oil-repellency of nylon without using perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS exposure causes serious health effects, including reduced fertility and increased cancer risk. Like microplastics, PFAS remain in the environment for an unknown amount of time, contaminating both water and land. To avoid using PFAS, Shabanian coated nylon fabrics with perfluoropolyether (PFPE) instead. Like Lahiri, Shabanian plasma-treated the fabric using Harrick Plasma’s High Power Expanded Plasma Cleaner. This plasma treatment increased the number of reactive sites on the nylon surface to which the PFPE coating could bond. The PFPE coating demonstrated excellent adhesion to the nylon and repelled oils of various viscosities. Together, Shabanian and Lahiri’s studies introduce unique methods to make synthetic fabrics more environmentally friendly.


Microplastics Article

Lahiri, S. K., Azimi Dijvejin, Z., & Golovin, K. (2023). “Polydimethylsiloxane-coated textiles with minimized microplastic pollution”. Nature Sustainability, 6(5), 559–567. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-01059-4

Shabanian, S., Lahiri, S. K., Soltani, M., & Golovin, K. (2023). “Durable water- and oil-repellent textiles without long- or short-chain perfluoroalkylated substances”. Materials Today Chemistry, 34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mtchem.2023.101786

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