Plasma-coated yarns for medical applications

At the NanoEurope, which will be held from September 11 – 13, 2007, the latest nanotech-nology developments in the field of textiles will be presented

(PresseBox) ( St.Gallen, )
Textile surfaces with properties that can be selectively adjusted while retaining their textile character and also becoming “multifunctional” have ceased to be a mere dream. They have been made possible by plasma technology, which is already widely applied in the fields of microelectronics, tools, machine components, and glass and film surfaces. Dr. Dirk Hegemann, team manager in the Advanced Fibers department of the Empa in St.Gallen, will show new possible applications of plasma-coated yarns in medicine in the context of the specialist conference on “Textiles” at this year’s NanoEurope Fair & Conference.

Plasma that can be applied for modifying material surfaces is a reactive, ionized gas – much like that encountered in fluorescent lamps – that is excited by electric fields. As the energy in the plasma is absorbed by only a small portion of all gas particles, the reactive gas will remain near room temperature. The high-energy particles can contribute to erosion processes or to the cross-linking of polymers, while reactive plasma species are utilized for coating or for generating func-tional groups. This enables a high level of process control to be achieved, regardless of the plasma conditions such as gas composition, energy input, and pressure. Moreover, this is a dry technology with the potential to replace wet chemical process operations in the textile industry that are associ-ated with high chemicals and water consumption. This makes it possible, for example, to selectively adjust the wettability of surfaces, which also plays an important role in contact with biological media such as protein adhesion.

Antibacterial properties

In medical engineering, antibacterial and electrically conductive yarns are of great interest. Coating yarns with silver makes them highly suitable for obtaining both properties. But the quantity of silver applied as well as its adhesion to the yarns must be controlled in order to prevent it from being washed out and from contaminating waste water. Therefore, plasma technology also comes in here. High-energy particles are accelerated from the plasma onto a silver plate, the target. In the process, silver atoms are ejected, which produces the coating on the yarns. In this so-called sputter process, the coatings build up one atom layer at a time, enabling control over the layers on a nano-meter scale.

Wide field of applications in medicine

The properties of plasma-coated yarns can be fully exploited in operating room clothing. When individual silver-coated yarns are woven into these textiles, this will create a dense fabric with anti-static and antimicrobial characteristics which will not let blood or secretions pass through. In addi-tion, it will destroy germs and prevent electric charging. On the other hand, good conductivity is a desirable property in textile electrodes, which are created by embroidering using yarn that is coated with silver. As a result of their textile character, the electrodes may – for example – be integrated directly in a T-shirt and are therefore highly suitable for long-term electrocardiogram measure-ments. This enables heart diseases to be detected at an early stage. The latest developments in this area will be presented at the NanoEurope in a subject block (Empa together with sports ap-parel specialist Odlo). But textile electrodes serve not only for taking measurements; they may also be used for electro-stimulation. A project carried out in collaboration with the Institute for Automa-tion at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and Compex Médical SA will show the potential of this technology in the fields of regeneration and neuro-prosthetics.

NanoEurope – unique platform for science and industry

In order to make low-pressure plasma technology commercially attractive and fit for industrial uses, not only the appropriate process development tailored to textile materials is needed, but also suit-able process control. This requires close cooperation between science and industry. The NanoEu-rope will provide a unique forum for discussing this subject, with conferences on industrial applica-tions in Textiles, Medical Devices, Packaging, and Plastics in addition to Solar Power Generation. Trends and future applications will also be shown, and papers will discuss the wide experience gained to date in commercializing scientific insights. Engineers, product managers, and research-ers will benefit from important impulses in St.Gallen and find competent partners from business and science for their industrial activities.


Textile electrodes made of silver-coated yarns enable long-term electrocardiogram measurements.

NanoEurope 2007
Dates: September 11 – 13, 2007
Venue: Olma Messen St.Gallen Exhibition Center, St.Gallen, Switzerland
Fair: Hall 9.1, Conferences: Halls 9.1.2, 9.2, and 2.1.

Following last year’s successful event, which was attended by 65 exhibitors and 4,500 visitors from over 33 countries, the NanoEurope trade fair will once again serve this year as a meeting platform for the interested specialist public. The event in 2007 will again focus on the industrial areas of Medical Devices, Textiles, and Plastics. New additions are Solar Power and Packaging. For the third time now, the internationally acclaimed NanoRegulation Conference will be held on September 12 and 13, 2007 as part of the NanoEurope. Also new is the “Dye Solar Cell Industriali-zation Conference,” which is being organized in cooperation with Dyesol Ltd. and will take place concurrently with the NanoEurope 2007.
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