Nanofibres - remember that word well because you might be hearing it more and more often in the future, and maybe partly thanks to Czech scientists.
Nanofibres are ultra-thin fibres, just 1 billionth of a metre wide - that's 100,000 times thinner than a human hair. They have long been at the centre of research at the Technical University in the northern Czech town of Liberec. The head of the research team, Oldrich Jirsak, describes the practical applications of nanofibres.
"Filters made from nanofibres are extremely efficient because they have such tiny pores that no bacteria or viruses can pass through. Such materials can also be used to make protective garments and breathing masks. Nanofibres are also being used in tissue engineering and as wound dressings which efficiently protect for instance burns on the body. We could find dozens, maybe hundreds of potential uses."
Nanofibres are still waiting for their full potential to be discovered. But for that they first need to leave the laboratories. The team of professor Oldrich Jirsak have developed a technology that allows mass commercial production of nanofibres.
"We have developed a technology which we had patented in the Czech Republic and internationally. As our university owns the patent, it can close a licence contract with a manufacturer. We have found a company here in Liberec and now we're building a machine which we want to get running by the end of the year and present it at international fairs already in the spring."
The Liberec "Nanospider" can spin nanofibres at high speed and quantity, therefore it will make the production much cheaper than in laboratories and bring the cost of the material closer to the price of conventional fabrics.
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