Understanding Nanofibers in only 5 minutes!

This article provides a brief introduction to the fundamentals to take the first step in learning about nanofibers!

The definition of nanofibers

A nanofiber is defined as “a fibrous material with a diameter of 1 nm to 100 nm and a length that is at least 100 times the diameter. To put it simply, nanofibers are “ultrafine fibers” that are one-hundredth to one-thousandth the thickness of a hair.

Positioning of nanofibers

Because of their nano-sized characteristics, nanofibers are being researched and developed as “advanced materials” to support Japan’s future in the fields of IT, biotechnology, environment and energy, etc.

Types of nanofibers

There are various types of nanofibers, ranging from “polymer nanofibers” such as polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, “bionanofibers” such as cellulose, tendon and DNA, “carbon nanofibers” such as carbon nanotubes, and “nanowires” made of metals. Each type of nanofiber has its own characteristics.

properties of nanofibers

Nanofibers have three major properties.

«Super Specific Surface Area Effect»

As the name suggests, nanofibers are nano- sized ultrafine fibers, meaning they have a larger surface area than other materials! As a result, absorption of gases, liquids, solids, and microorganisms is said to be up to 10,000 times greater.

«Nano-size effect»

Nano-sized fibers are less likely to diffusely reflect light and are highly transparent materials. They also have excellent sound absorption and heat insulation properties.


«Supramolecular alignment effect»

This effect is possible because of the nanofibers’ dense structure, which allows electricity to pass through easily, increasing strength and heat resistance.

Examples of specific practical applications and possible uses

We have commercialized “nanofiber masks” that utilize nano-sized filters finer than viruses, and nanofiber “oil adsorbents” that absorb oil faster and retain more oil than conventional ones. In addition, research is underway to realize “artificial oases” and “reinforced concrete” utilizing nanofibers.

The Beginning of Japanese Nanofiber Technology

In March 2001, the Council for Science and Technology Policy announced that nanotechnology would be a strategic research target along with bioscience, information technology, and environment and energy. In 2003, a “Strategy for Industrial Discovery” was formulated to seek specific results to revitalize the economy. Nanotechnology was positioned as a fundamental technology related to the “network and nano device industry,” “nano bionic industry,” “nano environmental energy industry,” “innovative materials industry,” and “nano measurement and processing industry,” seeking for concrete results.

Around 2000, it was said that nanofibers would bring about a materials revolution around the world, and the United States, Germany, South Korea, and other countries began a race to mass-produce nanofibers as a massive national project, but even after spending about 20 years, they have yet to establish a revolutionary production technology. However, a national project called the “Project for Development of Basic Technology for New Structural Fiber Components with Advanced Functions (commonly known as the Nanofiber Project)” was carried out at the Tokyo Institute of Technology over a five-year period from April 2006 to March 2011, and the technology to safely produce large quantities of this material was completed.

Based on this technology, Zetta Co., Ltd., our business partner, was established, and in 2014 succeeded in developing a new spinning method called the Zetta-Spinning method (Zs method), which has made a further leap in its development leading to the current establishment.

The man behind the Japanese nanofibers

Akihiko Tanioka

Chairman, Japan Society of Nanofiber Science and Technology
Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Institute of Technology
Project leader of NEDO’s project for the development of basic technology for new structural fiber members with advanced functions (total project cost: 5.635 billion yen)
Director, Zetta Co., Ltd.


How was it? In this article, we have briefly explained the basics about nanofibers to you in a volume that you can easily digest in 5 minutes! If you still want to learn more about nanofibers, be sure to check out our other articles!