, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 44-57
Date: 28 Mar 2008

Sol–gel coating of cellulose fibres with antimicrobial and repellent properties

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Multifunctional, water and oil repellent and antimicrobial finishes for cotton fibres were prepared from a commercially available fluoroalkylfunctional water-born siloxane (FAS) (Degussa), nanosized silver (Ag) (CHT) and a reactive organic–inorganic binder (RB) (CHT). Two different application procedures were used: firstly, one stage treatment of cotton fabric samples by FAS sol (i), as well as by a sol mixture constituted from all three precursors (Ag–RB–FAS, procedure 1S) (ii), and secondly, two stage treatment of cotton by Ag–RB sol and than by FAS sol (Ag–RB + FAS, procedure 2S) (iii). The hydrophobic and oleophobic properties of cotton fabrics treated by procedures (i)–(iii) before and after consecutive (up to 10) washings were established from contact angle measurements (water, diiodomethane and n-hexadecane) and correlated with infrared and XPS spectroscopic measurements. The results revealed that even after 10 washing cycles cotton treated with Ag–RB + FAS (2S) retained an oleophobicity similar to that of the FAS treated cotton, while the Ag–RB–FAS (1S) cotton fibres exhibited a loss of oleophobicity already after the second washing, even though fluorine and C–F vibrational bands were detected in the corresponding XPS and IR spectra. The antibacterial activity of cotton treated by procedures (i)–(iii) was tested by its reduction of the bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus following the AATCC 100-1999 standard method and EN ISO 20743:2007 transfer method. The reduction in growth of both bacteria was nearly complete for the unwashed Ag–RB and Ag–RB–FAS (S1), but for the unwashed Ag–RB + FAS (S2) treated cotton no reduction of S. aureus and 43.5 ± 6.9% reduction of E. coli was noted. After the first washing, the latter two finishes exhibited nearly a complete reduction of E. coli but for the Ag–RB treated cotton the reduction dropped to 88.9 ± 3.4. None of the finishes retained antibacterial properties after 10 repetitive washings. The beneficial and long-lasting low surface energy effect of FAS finishes in the absence of Ag nanoparticles, which led to the “passive” antibacterial properties of FAS treated cotton fabrics, was established by applying the EN ISO 20743:2007 transfer method. The results revealed a reduction in bacteria of about 21.9 ± 5.7% (FAS), 13.1 ± 4.8% (Ag–RB–FAS (S1)) and 41.5 ± 3.7% (Ag–Rb + FAS (S2)), while no reduction of the growth of bacteria was observed for cotton treated with Ag nanoparticles after 10 repetitive washings. The physical properties (bending rigidity, breaking strength, air permeability) of finished cotton samples were determined, and showed increased fabric softness and flexibility as compared to the Ag–RB treated cotton, but a slight decrease of breaking strength in the warp and weft directions, while air permeability decreased for all type of finishes.