By: Dr. V K Tripathi

The challenge
Reduce vibrations in spinning and weaving machines, thereby reduce the breakage of threads and consequently reduce stoppages and increase productivity

The solution
Sputtering, a first generation nanotechnology, was used to build up the tolerances in all moving parts of the machines, as well as on the housing bore, bearings and shaft

Biomimicry and nanotechnology are the technologies used by God or nature to create the life on earth. Nature stacks and builds molecule by molecule. Nature's production technology is set at life-�loving temperature - without the man-made technologies of heating, beating and treating; without giving toxic nightmares; without any input of electrical power; and without depleting the natural resources.

Move towards nanotechnology

Of late, human beings have shown an inclination to shun the roadmap of victory over nature, and decided to copy the indisputable 'technology-wisdom' of nature, i.e., nanotechnology. As a result of the ongoing research in this arena, a total of 15,000 patent applications have been filed globally, till 2005. Some of the nano-products available today are faster, more efficient, cleaner, stronger, lighter and more precise.

All Fortune 500 companies have launched nano initiative programmes. A 2005 National Technology Initiative (NNI) survey in the US shows the growth of nanotechnology in manufacturing (refer figure 1). Commercialisation timelines indicate that many new nano product introductions in 2007-2011, and the high level of long-term expectations. (National Center for Manufacturing Systems, January 2006).

All these hectic global activities, however, fly on our face when we realise that our advanced technology products have limitations as compared to nature's own products. Limitations of human technology in comparison with nature become evident from the following examples:

. Spider silk is five times stronger than steel, ounce to ounce. It can elongate 40 per cent (unlike steel) and spring back to the original length, when released of load

. Mussel - a sea-creature produces 'adhesive; uses it and cures it in 3 min, right inside water, to stick itself to anything in the tidal zone for eating or mating. This adhesive needs no primer and such a sticking power is unachieved by man-made adhesives. We are only dreaming of inventing one, which can work in moist conditions

. Rhino horn manages to self repair itself, through it contains no living cell

. The inner shell of a sea creature called 'abalone' is twice as tough as our highest�tech ceramics. The nearest tougher material made by man is polyaramid Kevlar - a fibre so tough that it can stop bullets. But to make Kevlar, petroleum molecules are poured into a pressurised vat of concentrated sulphuric acid and boiled at several 1 00 of, in order to force it into a liquid crystal form. Then, it is subjected to high pressure drawing. The energy input is extreme, and this process results in toxic byproducts.


Biomimicry

Nano technology could bring us so far. Now, biomimicry is taking over. Despite the miraculous superiority, the nature uses most ordinary materials like carbon, calcium, water and phosphate, to create most complex and composite materials.

The 'tendon' in our forearm is a twisted bundle of cables (composite) like the cables used in a suspension bridge. Each individual cable is itself a twisted bundle of even thinner cables. Each of these thinner cables is a twisted bundle of cables (composite) like the cables used in a suspension bridge. Each of these thinner cables is a twisted bundle of molecules, which are again a twisted, helical bundle of atoms. Nanotechnology researchers are now trying to learn as to how to rearrange/twist these molecules. Bone, water, skin, tusks, antlers, and heart muscle - all miracle materials - are made to live long and then disintegrate to be reabsorbed by another kind of life, through the grand cycle of death and renewal.

The one common base of all the miracles of nature's creation is a 'protein cell; which is absent in the man-made products. The protein separated from a living cell is still a living protein - fully charged and able to direct crystallisation and multiplying itself in a proper environment. The engineering technologists do not yet see the need of mixing or dosing protein cells with mineral and metal molecules for self-building of machine parts like stem-cells. This is being done by biomimics.

Stand alone nano technologies of the first generation like 'sputtering; ie, rearranging and dosing the top surface of existing products, can give solutions to the global concern of finite natural resources. This is the greatest contribution of nanotechnology to the existing manufacturing of every product.

Case study

The application and benefits of nanotechnology in the textile industry can be explained through the following example:

Problem statement: A critical problem in the textile industry is the vibrations in spinning and weaving machines. These vibrations are the root cause for breaking of the threads. Such interruptions cause loss of productivity due to repeated stoppages and restarting.

Solution: Nanotechnology, ie, sputtering process, was used to build up the tolerances in all the moving parts of the spinning and weaving machines. Sputtering was also done on the housing bore, inner diameter and outer diameter of the bearings and journal of the shaft. The same process was repeated for bushes, pins, guides and slides, rapier and guide, etc. Poreless impregnation nanotechnology was also used in some parts to improve the tolerances.

Results: The use of nanotechnology resulted in drastic reduction in the vibration levels and the breaking of the threads was reduced by more than 95 per cent. Additional benefits included significant reduction in the wear of mechanical parts as well as reduction in the power consumption.

Clients: The above technology was implemented at Bhivani Textile Ltd in Haryana, Siyaram Silk Mills at Tarapur and Neosack in Indore.

About the author:

Dr V K Tripathi is the managing director of Virtus Techno Innovations, a company dedicated to the R&D in nanotechnology. He is working in the field of applied nanotechnology since 1984. His group companies have so far filed 23 patent applications in nanotechnology. Tripathi is also the inventor of right brain management (RBM), a patent-pending technique that can be practiced to raise the right brain utilisation of people beyond the current 1 percent. He can be contacted at vaubt@vsnl.com


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