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Plasma coating process produces multifunctional medical textiles
Plasma-based surface treatment is a mature technology in many respects, but it has not been fully exploited in medical textile applications, according to Dirk Hegemann, group manager of the plasma-modified surfaces division at Empa, Swiss Materials Science & Technology (St. Gallen, Switzerland). Researchers at the centre intend to remedy that. Applying the technology to yarn that is then woven into textiles may enhance a product’s antimicrobial, antistatic, hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties along with its biocompatiblity and lubricity. The technology also has potential for enhancing long-term-patient-monitoring applications.

“Plasma coating has not yet been commercialized for the continuous coating of yarn,” says Hegemann. Empa is developing a technology to achieve this. The use of silver coating to obtain antibacterial and electrically conductive properties is one application that has sparked the interest of researchers.

The coatings are applied one atomic layer at a time. This enables researchers to precisely control the amount of the silver that is deposited on the yarn and to fine-tune the adhesive properties. By modifying the fibre and yarn surfaces at the nano level, Hegemann adds, desirable textile properties such as flexibility, mechanical strength, and touch are retained.

The sliver coating also imparts conductivity to the yarn, enabling its use in textile-base electrodes. The material could be used to manufacture clothing that doubles as an ECG device for long-term patient monitoring. Textile electrodes also may be used in elecctrostimulation products. In fact, says Hegemann, “multifuntional fibres can lead to a host of new products.”

Furthermore, the technology’s suitability for neuroprosthetics and regeneration is being investigated in a collaborative project by the institute for automation at the Swiss Federal Institute of technology (ETH) in Zurich and Compex Medical S.A. (Ecublens, Switzerland), which manufactures muscle stimulation devices.

European Medical Device Manufacturer Magazine
October 2007

Last update on 2008-03-06