Which is better biotechnology or textile technology

Health Industry BW

Biotechnology has a hand in many of the high-tech textiles that we take for granted in everyday life today. Whether products for wound care, awning fabrics or clothing textiles - many of these materials were developed biotechnologically or are manufactured with the help of such processes. Nature was the model for many of the products that are now on the market under the designation “micro” or “nano.” In the current dossier, various aspects of innovative textiles are presented in which the biotechnology industry plays a role.

Modern biotechnology spans a wide range between the most diverse fields such as nutritional sciences and environmental technology or the textile industry. Due to the close cooperation between textile technology and biotechnology, many joint innovative fields of work have been developed in recent years. The textile industry is one of the oldest branches of industry in the world. Textile manufacturing and textile research also have a long tradition in southwest Germany. 200 years have passed since the first mechanical spinning mill was founded in Baden and with over 30,000 employees, the textile industry is now an important economic factor in Baden-Württemberg.

Until the 20th century, only natural materials such as cotton, hemp, flax, etc. were used for textiles. The invention of man-made fibers in the 20th century enormously expanded the possible uses for textile materials. Technical textiles have been on the advance since the late 1980s. These already have a share of around 40 percent in total textile production. With their great innovation potential, they are the growth engine of the textile industry.

Textile industry is breaking new ground

Targeted interdisciplinary collaborations between different branches of science make it possible to combine several functionalities in one material. Breathable, temperature regulating, light in weight, shockproof, water and dirt repellent and much more are today's fibers. It is precisely this multifunctionality that makes modern textiles versatile beyond the traditional clothing sector, e.g. in automotive engineering, aerospace engineering, agriculture or biomedical engineering.

For example, geoscientists from the “Functional Morphology and Biomimetics” working group at the University of Tübingen work with scientists from the Universities of Freiburg and Stuttgart as well as the ITV Denkendorf, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart in the biomimetics competence network. In such a cooperation, the geoscientists, together with textile researchers from ITV Denkendorf, develop textiles based on the example of plants, which can be used for the so-called "fog harvest". In many regions of the world where the water supply is scarce, this could be used to collect fog water and thus obtain drinking water. In addition to the technical fog harvest, another application potential of such textiles could be the filtering out and separation of aerosols.

Textiles in medicine

Innovative new types of textiles are also used in a wide variety of ways in medicine: from tissue engineering to wound dressings and implants. In the biomedical engineering research area, biologists and engineers work closely together and develop biomaterials and implants as well as processes for tissue regeneration. Resorbable, three-dimensionally formable nonwovens, in which the patient's own cartilage cells are allowed to grow, are, for example, products of this work. Such implants can then be used, among other things, to alleviate signs of degeneration such as osteoarthritis or to build up bones for dental implants.

There are also new opportunities for the use of modern textiles in wound care: With an increasing number of older people and diabetics in our society, problem wounds have to be treated; In Germany alone there are around two million wound patients annually. In the future, innovative medical textiles into which therapeutic agents can be integrated will certainly play an important role in wound and skin treatment (see “Wound dressings with active agent depots”).

But antibacterial and antiviral textiles and utensils are also playing an increasingly important role in hygiene. Their effectiveness helps, for example, to break chains of infection (see "Evaluation system for the antiviral effectiveness of textiles and everyday objects"). Among other things, antiviral towel rolls are already being used in toilets or similar consumer goods in hospitals.

The intelligent technical textiles

The so-called intelligent technical textiles are another interdisciplinary example of innovative textiles from the fields of health and safety. This is understood to mean textiles with integrated microsystems. They are used in the clinical environment for measuring and monitoring vital parameters such as blood pressure, pulse or breathing.

Better textiles with the help of nature

During evolution, nature has developed surfaces to which dirt cannot adhere due to a complicated micro- or nanostructure. The self-cleaning of these superhydrophobic micro- to nano-structured surfaces on plants was discovered and elucidated by W. Barthlott in 1975 at the University of Heidelberg. What the botanists have discovered in the lotus plant, the engineers and technicians at ITV Denkendorf transfer to textile surfaces. There is great interest in the so-called lotus effect. This self-cleaning effect is not only interesting for outdoor clothing and awnings, but also in medicine.

Another material, polylactide (PLA), which some people know from compostable catering utensils or packaging, is also in demand from clothing manufacturers. PLA is a raw material for a new type of synthetic fiber made from vegetable carbons. Unlike nylon and polyester fibers, whose carbon source is non-renewable petroleum, this new fiber draws on the carbon that maize plants absorb from the air during photosynthesis.

Minimize risk

Many of these high-tech products are now made from nanomaterials. Of course, it must also be ensured that these are harmless to both the manufacturer and the consumer - over the entire life cycle. The “TechnoTox” project, for example, is working on a risk assessment of how safe nanotextiles are for humans and the environment (see “Risk assessment of nano-materials”). With an increasing demand for nanotextiles, it can be ensured that new materials coming onto the market are non-toxic. For this purpose, particle properties and effects are examined in detail.