They say good things come in small packages and as someone who is barely five-foot-two, I'm apt to agree. When it comes to nonwovens technologies, it is the smallest fibers that are getting the biggest headlines these days as it seems everyone is interested in nanotechnology and how it can help move nonwovens into new application areas.
Nanofibers, or those with diameters below one micron, have already made tremendous strides in the filtration markets and major players in that arena, both on the roll goods level like Ahlstrom and Hollingsworth & Vose and media producers such as Donaldson, have already proven that nanofibers are able to simultaneously improve efficiency, capacity and pressure drop in a way that no other technology has done in decades.
Having already proven their worth in the filtration market—both in air and liquid applications—now nanofiber technologies are branching into new areas. With a partnership with Elmarco, Oerlikon has produced acoustical insulation for dishwashers, filling a need for quieter appliances brought on by the open floor plan trend in construction; meanwhile, researchers are the University of Tennessee are building new dies to process material for biomedical, or woundcare applications. Beyond these, interest is being seen in energy storage and battery separator applications, to name a few, and many experts in the field say there is no end to how nanofibers can reshape the nonwovens industry. Whether this means improvements to existing applications or whole new-to-the-world products made from nonwovens, no one would say, butit's certainly an exciting time to be involved in nanofibers for nonwovens.
In an industry that has been stricken by rapidly rising raw material prices, market maturity, pricing pressures and competition, it's nice to see a market still so intent on growth and innovation. While much of this is being done on the university level, there are certainly a number of important companies embracing nanotechnology as a means for future growth and innovation.
Speaking of growth and innovation, another market for nonwovens that has been able to retain some of its dynamism is filtration. This month associate editor Sandra Levy speaks to some of the markets top suppliers to find out what they are bring to the market. Find out just how recession proof this market really is and whether or not companies are getting a return on their investment in "The Boom in the Filtration Market" on page 28. This feature is complemented with a sneak peak at what some exhibitors plan to bring to the Filtration Expo this month in Chicago on page 38.
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