Nanotechnology in Interior Design

nanoparticles (Source: www.nanogloss.com)

Nanotechnology is a fledgling field, holding within its girth a remarkable capacity to change our lives.   Being an especially pronounced buzzword in the past decade or so, I’ve been anxiously anticipating where the collision of physics, chemistry and design would take us in the marketplace, particularly in the interior design field.

For something so small (one nanometer is approximately 1/80,000th the diameter of one human hair), it certainly delivers.  Commonly known to harbor anti-staining properties, it is widely used in outdoor sports clothing as well as automotive coatings.    Other lesser-known characteristics of nanotechnology include being anti-bacterial, acoustically and thermally insulating, UV-shielding, electrically conductive, anti-fogging, and air-purifying.

These attributes clearly indicate vast promise in many fields, especially in architecture and design.  Unfortunately, there is less information about nanotechnology product applications, at least advertised, than I had anticipated would be in 2012.  Envisioning a speedy web search to find a bevy of products citing its use, if not celebrating it,  I’ve encountered a different scenario.  Only a handful of products in the design industry currently disclose its use.  Rather, they “have more interest in mentioning its characteristics than the recipe”, says Claude Berube, Managing Director of Nanocore Technology in Malaysia.

Lotus leaf illustrating “The Lotus Effect”

Nanotechnology’s most distinguished ability to date is to wick away liquids, or “self-clean”, coined “The Lotus Effect”.  This phenomenon was discovered by German botanist Wilhelm Barthlott in the 1970’s, and served as one of the precursors to nanotechnology today.   Barthlott discovered that the Lotus leaf has a microscopically rough, water-repellent surface that is spiky, creating a surface where there is little contact for water to settle on.  Furthermore, the spikes are waxy, which causes any water to bead and roll off of the leaf, taking with it any surface dirt.  Employing this concept on a product, the result is a surface that stays cleaner longer.  However, it does not mean that it never needs cleaned or maintained, it just requires it less often.

StoCoat Lotusan paint: without (left), with (right)

Cladding, coating and restoration systems manufacturer Sto Corp. utilizes the self-cleaning characteristic in their StoCoat Lotusan exterior paint line, which they refer to as “Lotus-Effect technology”.  Dirt washes away from the exterior paint surface with natural rain water. **Director of Technical Services and Research and Development Tom Remmele has further clarified after the posting of this blog that “Nanotechnology is used in the sense that the structure of the material is at the ‘nano-level’ is a unique structure that mimics the surface of the structure of the lotus leaf.  Nanoparticles, however, are not part of the composition of StoCoat Lotusan”.

Nano-Tex is a fabric spill and stain resistance protection built into select textile fabric fibers themselves, versus topically applied or immersed chemical treatments.  It’s a vehicle that would allow even me, a relatively clumsy person, to consider putting a lighter fabric on my sofa and feel comfortable about it.

Liquid on Nano-Tex treated fabric

“By working at the nano-scale, our textile enhancements provide amazing functional improvements without changing the natural characteristics of the fabric, like hand and drape. And, since our technologies permanently bond with the individual fibers of the fabric, our durability is unsurpassed”  indicates Nano-Tex’s  website.  Fabric sold by over 40 companies, including Holly Hunt, Architex, Knoll Textiles, Kravet Contract and F. Schumacher & Co., are indicated as available with Nano-Tex technology.  Knoll and Kravet Contract are two particular companies which more aggressively advertise the Nano-Tex association on particular products; surprisingly many others do not even reference it.

“RadianFab” photonic fabric

Departing from common stain resistance, RadianFab is a textile innovation that has employed nano-structured photonic fibers into yarn, which is further woven into fabric.  The fabric emits full color light when powered by batteries.  RadianFab has superior drapeability, hand, comfort, wear and fade resistance,  Creator Professor Tao Xiao-Ming from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Nanotechnology Center for Functional and Intelligent Textiles and Apparel indicates on their website “It supports high-end process that add nano particles to magnify the glow, giving the freedom to alter glowing effect on preset patterns. Designers can choose to light up brighter sections and less on dimmer sections, causing the glow fade from edge to core, say for example. It is now possible to create perspective effect like having images vanish into distance or to add realism to 3D representations.”  Although primarily being developed for the fashion industry, Professor Tao Xiao-Ming envisions RadianFab other in industries, including interior design. A proprietary development in 2008, RadianFab is currently being further developed.  Although I couldn’t see this nano-photonic fabric in mainstream use, it would be fitting in a swank lounge or theater setting.

ccflex “Stardust” pattern ceramic wallcovering

German interior designer Sylvia Leydecker of 100% Interior, in concert with specialty chemical company Evonik Degussa, developed a rollable wallcovering with a nano-ceramic coating called ccflex.  The wallcovering is breathable while simultaneously water, flame, impact and chemical resistant.   It’s also lightweight.  ccflex is currently manufactured by Marburg, who purchased marketing rights in 2009.  Additionally, Sylvia Leydecker is also the author of the book  “Nanomaterials in Architecture, Interior Architecture and Design” and an advocate of innovative products.

The Myoto Chair, designed by Konstantin Grcic has a nanoparticle additive in its BASF Ultradur High Speed Plastic for increased fluidity. “The remit was to create a cantilever chair, the backrest of which – ‘stretched like a pillow’ – would curve in response to the body.  This then was the approach focused on by the customer and the technical function and physical efficiency were used as the parameters for the innovation process”. (Peters 2010, 10) The Myoto Chair is manufactured by the Italian company Plank.

Finally, carpet that cleans!  “With its duraAir ™ Dura Tufting GmbH of Fulda (Germany) is offering the first carpet anywhere in the world that, equipped with nano-particles, is capable of freeing interior spaces from odours and damaging formaldehydes.  Household, animal or garbage and WC odor, as well as cigarette smoke and nicotine are all degraded. In this way the carpet provides a healthier room climate” (Peters 2010, 13)

While I hope to see more interior design products that take advantage of the benefits of nanotechnology in the near future, I’m pleased to have found these. Perhaps a sequential posting is to come….

www.stocorp.com
www.nanotex.com
www.itc.polyu.edu.hk/en/research/highlights-4028e48629f04b090129f293436a0002.html
www.100interior.de
www.plank.it
www.hessen-nanotech.de/mm/mm001/Broschuere_Material-formt-Produkt_en_web.pdf

Footnote Documentation:
Peters, Sascha Hessian Ministry of Economics, Transport, Urban and Regional Development “Materials Shape Products: Increase Innovation and Market Opportunities with the Help of Creative Professionals, vol 18. (Wiesbaden, Germany: HA Hessen Agentur GmbH,  2010)

Thank you to Sylvia Leydecker’s book “Nano Materials in Architecture, Interior Architecture and Design” for background information and some product references

 

 

**Clarification dated 6/5/12 by Sto Corp. Director of Technical Services and Research and Development Tom Remmele

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