Plasma Technology in Textile: A step towards the green environment

Plasma Technology in Textile: A step towards the green environment (Part-1)
Arpita Kothari
M. Tech. Scholar
Department of Textile Technology,
NIT Jalandhar, India
Cell: +91- 7837-696041

1. Introduction:
The textile industry is searching for innovative production techniques to improve the product quality, as well as society requires new finishing techniques working in environmental respect. Plasma surface treatments show distinct advantages, because they are able to modify the surface properties of inert materials, sometimes with environment friendly devices. For fabrics, cold plasma treatments require the development of reliable and large systems. Such systems are now existing and the use of plasma physics in industrial problems is rapidly increasing. On textile surfaces, three main effects can be obtained depending on the treatment conditions: the cleaning effect, the increase of microroughness (anti-pilling finishing of wool) and the production of radicals to obtain hydrophilic surfaces. Plasma polymerisation, that is the deposition of solid polymeric materials with desired properties on textile substrates, is under development. The advantage of such plasma treatments is that the modification turns out to be restricted in the uppermost layers of the substrate, thus not affecting the overall desirable bulk properties.

Plasma, the 4th state of matter is not so a strange thing, It had been first developed by M. Faraday in 1880s and plasma concept was first proposed by I. Langmuir in 1926. In the 1960s, the main industrial applications of (low-pressure) plasmas have been in the micro-electronic industries. In the1980s their uses broadened to include many other surface treatments, especially in the fields of metals and polymers. In 1980s,in the textile field, low-pressure plasma treatments of a variety of fibrous materials showing very promising results regarding the improvements in various functional properties in plasma-treated textiles. In recent times, commercial applicable atmospheric-pressure plasma processing of textiles is under research.

What is Plasma?

Plasma is any substance (usually a gas) whose atoms have one or more electrons detached when heat is applied and therefore become ionised. The detached electrons remain, however, in the gas volume that in an overall sense remains electrically neutral. Thus, any ionised gas that is composed of nearly equal numbers of negative and positive ions is called plasma.
Figure 1: Plasma: 4th state of matter
The conventional wet treatments applied in textile processing for fibre surface modification and others are associated with many constraints. These treatments mainly concern with energy, cost and environmental issues. Application of Plasma technology at low temperature in textile processing can prove to be the best alternative for these issues. Unlike conventional wet processes, which penetrate deeply into fibres, plasma only reacts with the fabric surface that will not affect the internal structure of the fibres. Plasma technology modify the chemical structure as well as the surface properties of textile materials, deposit chemical materials (plasma polymerization) to add up functionality, or remove substances (plasma etching) from the textile materials for better applicability. The functional properties of the fabric can be modified by Nano scale etching of surface by plasma gas particles. In textile processing, this technology can be explored in various areas like pre-treatment, dyeing and finishing through different methodology vis-à-vis Glow-discharge method, Corona discharge method and Dielectric barrier discharge method to add functionality and modification of surface properties of textile materials. Plasma technology is applicable to most of textile materials for surface treatment and is beneficial over the conventional process, since it do not alter the inherent properties of the textile materials, It is dry textile treatment processing without any expenses on effluent treatment, It is a green process and it is simple process. This technology can generate more novel products to satisfy customer's need and requirement.

Gases commonly used for plasma treatments are:
  • Chemically inert (e.g. helium and argon).
  • Reactive and non-polymerisable (e.g. ammonia, air, and nitrogen).
  • Reactive and polymerisable (e.g. tetra fluoroethylene, hexamethyl disiloxane).
Principle of Plasma Processing:
Plasma technology is a surface-sensitive method that allows selective modification in the nm-range. If a textile to be functionalized is placed in a reaction chamber with any gas and the plasma is then ignited, the generated particles interact with the surface of the textile. In this way the surface is specifically structured, chemically functionalized or even coated with nm-thin film depending on the type of gas.

Types of Plasma:
Different plasma based on different things are shown in table 1.

Table 1: Types of Plasma 
On the basis of pressure
Low pressure(0.01kpa)
Atmospheric pressure(100 kpa)
On basis of the temperature of electrons and ions
Hot plasma(above 10000 degree)
Cold plasma(below 100 degree)
On basis of frequency of power supply
Low frequency(40kHz)
Radio frequency(13.56MHz)
Microwave frequency(2.56GHz)

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Mazharul Islam Kiron is a textile consultant and researcher on online business promotion. He is working with one European textile machinery company as a country agent. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.

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