Autumn 2011

Nanotechnology: the technology of the 21st century

Professor Dave Blank is scientific director of Mesa+, the NanoLaboratory on the campus of the University of Twente. Mesa+ is  considered one of the world’s largest research institutes in nanotechnology. TenCate, with  Xennia Technology specializes in the development of industrial production processes based on inkjet technology. 

In February 2010 TenCate introduced inkjet-based nano process technology for textile applications. This enables functional characteristics to be applied to materials at nanoscale.

Nanotechnology is called the technology of the 21st century, so it is unsurprising that the Netherlands has seen heavy investment in nanotechnology over the last few years. NanoNed is the initiative of eight knowledge institutes and is one of the national research programmes. Its aim is to cluster our country’s strengths in the field of nanotechnology and the relating enabling technologies. This has fostered the cooperation of different disciplines from physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, biology and medicine, leading to a clear added value in knowledge. NanoNextNL, the new national nano programme, is now underway – an initiative in which more than 120 institutes and companies are cooperating in the field of nanotechnology.

‘With the aid of nanotechnology we can make extremely strong materials,’ says Dave Blank (picture), ‘such as water-repellent windows, better implants for artificial hips and the like, or “self-thinking” textiles. We devise and compute new materials of this kind. It’s very basic research but with a direct connection to applications. In our clean room PhD students and entrepreneurs stand side by side.

The inkjet technology of Xennia applies the principle of nano-surface technology: in this case refining (dyeing, printing, finishing) textile substrates at nanoscale, including ceramics and textiles. Here it’s a matter of nano-surface technology. At Mesa+ / NanoLab people are more concerned with nano-depth technology. ‘We can learn from one another’s findings.’

Blue fabric (Tecawork Blue 65287)