A research team from the University of Manchester in the UK has overtaken Egyptian linen's finest Egyptian linen for the world's finest woven fabric, recognized by the Guinness World Records.
Weaving textiles from threads of different widths - from a few millimeters as in reeds and plant fibers to several micrometers such as wool, cotton, synthetic polymers, and more - has advanced together with civilization. Starting from stone-age humans who wove nets for fishing and weaving cloths for warmth and protection to the different types of woven materials used every day.
However, University of Manchester scientists have found a method to weave "molecular threads" to create two-dimensional layers creating a 2D "molecularly-woven" fabric that contains a thread count of 40 to 60 million threads. For reference, the finest Egyptian linen only has a thread count of around 1,500 - meaning it has that number of thread per inch of the textile.
Details of the report, titled "Self-assembly of a layered two-dimensional molecularly woven fabric, "appear in Nature's journal.
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Weaving Molecular Fabrics
Weaving is a process found in nature, such as birds intertwining branches and twigs to build nests and humans who have used it for various processes - nets for fishing, baskets for transport and storage, and fabrics for clothing. Even modern plastics are basically composed of long strands called polymers - this concept prompted the Manchester researchers to find ways of weaving strands in the same molecular context to create fabrics of exceptional strength and flexibility. This difference is similar to how linen sheets hold up compared to cotton.
Chemistry allowed the scientists to achieve their objective, using metallic atoms and negatively charged ions to create the molecular building blocks containing carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur. These blocks then connect to each other - like jigsaw pieces - to form single, 2D sheets of woven strands that are about only four nanometers, or four in one million parts of a millimeter, thick. While the largest "fabric" created was only 1 millimeter long, Professor David Leigh from the University of Manchester explains in an iNews article that this is still larger than the first graphene flakes when they were first fabricated.
"Weaving molecular strands in this way leads to new and improved properties," Leigh added. He also explains that the fabric is two times stronger than its unwoven strands, and when pulled to tear, he appears like a torn sheet instead of clumps of strands unraveling. Additionally, this new fabric could work as a net, allowing smaller particles to pass through it while blocking larger molecules.
Verifying Its Ultra-Thin Composition
The number of strands and crossings in the new fabric was measured by pointing X-rays on the molecular building blocks. Researchers were able to measure the thread count when the strands bend the X-rays passing through them. They found out that the material does have a thread count of 40 to 60 million strands per inch.
As for the thickness, researchers used a specialized instrument called an atomic force microscope - whose probe tip is so precise that it only contains a single atom at the end. Each fabric layer was found to be only 4 nanometers thick - 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.
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