About Nanofibers

The uses of Nanofibers

Nanofibers… a new incredible material that will make into reality future technology usually seen only in science fiction!

By utilizing our ultra-fine fibers, we may be able to realize unprecedented technologies such as
“contact lens-type computers“, “semi-permanent energy“,
“transparent but warm clothes that are lighter than feathers,”
and “systems to solve water shortages by converting seawater into fresh water”.

We are working day and night on research and development to achieve these goals.

How can Nanofibers do all of this?

First, we need to explain what does «nano» means as a unit of measurement

In our everyday life we normally use millimeters as the smallest unit of measurement. The unit equivalent to 0.001 times that millimeter is called “micrometer” (μm). If we go even further, we find that the equivalent of 0.001 times of that micrometer is called “nanometer” (nm). In other words, 1nm is equal to one billionth of a meter long. If we take into consideration that a drop of rain is about 1mm, the diameter of a human hair 100μm and a virus 0.1μm, we can understand even more how small is a “nano” unit of measurement.

To be “ultrafine fibers one-hundredth to one-thousandth the thickness of a hair” and a “fibrous material with a diameter of 1 nm to 100 nm and a length 100 times greater than the diameter” is part of the very definition of nanofibers

Thus, the tiny material “nanofiber” generates three effects: “super specific surface area effect,” “nanosize effect,” and “super molecular alignment effect,” and these effects can make it possible to create tiny antenna conductive materials, develop high-performance storage batteries from its strong storage effect, and create fabrics with high transparency, taking current technology a step into the future.

The 3 properties of the nanofibers

Let’s now discuss more in detail the three properties of nanofibers mentioned before!

Super molecular alignment effect…

The more the fibers are thin, the exponentially big the surface area per unit weight become bigger. And also, the intermolecular “Van der Waals forces”, between molecules, ions and atoms, start to work. This property makes the nanofibers use excellent for molecular recognition, absorption, and other properties, and it is expected to be used in biofilters, sensors, fuel cell electrode materials, and other applications.

「 Nano-size effect 」…

The effect of having nano-sized thickness produces “hydrodynamic properties” and “optical properties”. This results in an ultra-high performance filter with low pressure drop, yet perfectly compensating for submicron particles. In addition, since the diameter of nanofibers is shorter than the wavelength of light, diffuse reflection of light is reduced and fibers with high transparency are produced, which is expected to be used for electronic paper with excellent light transmittance.

「 Supramolecular alignment effect 」…

The effects resulting from the straight alignment of polymer chains produce “electrical,” “mechanical,” “thermal,” and other properties. When conductive atoms and molecules are arranged in a regular pattern, fibers with excellent electrical conductivity can be produced, which is expected to be used in mobile fuel cells and other applications. In addition, the straight polymer chains make the fibers extremely strong, and the dense structure greatly improves heat resistance. We expect that this material will be used in highly functional composite materials in fields where ” a light, thin, short, and small size” is required.

Examples of real usage

This incredible material called «nanofiber» actually is already in use in 2 of our retail products!

Nanofiber Face Mask Mikoto

As explained in the introduction “About nanofibers”, “nano” indicates a unit of measure smaller than viruses. Putting our nanofibers between two sheets of nonwoven fabric, we developed a “nanofiber face mask” that physically blocks the viruses. And while other face masks that use static electricity to obtain the same effect, our nanofiber face mask relies on the absorption power of the Van der Waals force. The effect of the static electricity used in the other masks, drop drastically after only one wash. On the other hand, since the van der Waals force is a force triggered by the nanofibers, it does not wash out and is long lasting. That’s why our MIKOTO, is used by many professionals in the medical field.

MIKOTO product page

Oil Absorbent Sheets «WATAPOI»

one showed by other similar products. Oil adsorbent can be used not only in the kitchen, but also in way bigger scale situations like oceanic oil spills or oil tanker marine incidents, making it a product that can greatly contribute to improve and defend the global natural environment.

“WATAPOI” product page

An environmentally friendly material with many potential uses

Nanofibers are an ” environmentally friendly” material from various perspectives. The reason for this? We will explain here.

The material of the future is made from waste !?

We are talking in general about “Nanofibers” but actually there are many different kinds of them. They can be polymer nanofibers made of polypropylene or ethylene, Bio-nanofibers made of cellulose or even DNA; Carbon-tubes carbon-nanofibers, Nanowires made of metal and many others, all with their unique properties.

Between all those different types, the polymer nanofibers are the easiest to mass produce and therefore, the type with more possible applications. Furthermore, their diameter in the nano order grants interesting new characteristics like antibacterial properties, ultrafine particle trapping properties, and slip flow.

Our original nanofibers, called “IBUKI NANO”, are made of polypropylene, the same material of plastic bags, wrapping strings, and buckets. These are all objects we use massively in our everyday lives and therefore, the volume of their wastes is also massive. This means however that there is plenty of recycled material for us to use and that is why our research and development is underway to realize waste PET nanofibers to reuse those resources!

To reduce consumption of limited resources and make the world a better place to live.

Now let’s talk about another quality of our nanofibers, their insulation effect. For example, let’s imagine a house built with nanofibers in its walls. A wall filled with nanofibers will present a “Vacoom membrane” inside that will serve as a heat insulant, resulting in a reduction in the usage of heating and cooling equipment and a more ecofriendly house environment.
This happens because the free path of air molecules is φ68 nm, while the diameter of nanofibers forms a layer of 50 nm…in other words, “nanofibers create a fine layer that even air cannot penetrate. From the same perspective, it is thought that it is possible to make also clothing with high heat retention performance, which will lead to the suppression of the consumption of goose and duck down used for clothing, or in other words, a better world for animals too.

Seawater desalination and rain storage, to help combat water shortages!

In Island countries or remote islands in general, the lack of a steady supply of water is a great problem. Therefore, we are developing a method of extracting fresh water from seawater by evaporating it, utilizing the “super specific surface area effect” characteristic of nanofibers! Furthermore, it is theoretically possible to simultaneously generate “fresh water” and “electricity” from seawater by using the highly concentrated salt water generated in the process to generate osmotic power at the same time. It is also thought to be possible to “create an artificial oasis by laying nanofiber sheets in the desert” using the water repellency of nanofibers, which is another one of the properties of nanofibers.

Envisioning a New Future with Nanofibers

Potential Areas of Application in the Future

Utilizing effectively the three properties of nanofibers, “super specific surface area effect,” “nanosize effect,” and “supramolecular alignment effect,” there are a wide range of fields in which they have potential applications. In addition to the sci-fi-like technology I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we have also begun to utilize nanofibers in the health and welfare fields such as “regenerative medicine” and “artificial muscles”. Nanofibers are also being considered for use in the development of stronger and more flexible concrete for the construction of safe and secure homes in Japan, a country prone to earthquakes. In the future, nanofibers may be used to promote the greening of deserts, extract raw materials for nanofibers from plants grown on the land, and create even more nanofibers to spread and permeate the land… such a virtuous cycle may be created in the future.

The possibilities of Carbon Nanofibers

Expectations are also high for “carbon nanofiber,” which is a cross between the nanofibers we have described so far and “carbon fiber” combining the appeal of both.

The expectations for carbon nanofiber, which is said to be half as light as aluminum and 20 times stronger than steel, are so high that it is expected to be used for ropes for space elevators that will connect outer space to the earth in the future. Carbon nanofiber is a material full of possibilities that will make the near future a reality.

Our corporate strength will promote the “realization of the future we have dreamed of”.

Ibuki Co., Ltd. is a company that has expanded through the development of a wide range of businesses, including parking lot management, rental conference rooms, and hotel business, with real estate business as its core business. The company was founded in 1978. It now exclusively manufactures the nanofiber “Ibuki NANO” through a business alliance with Zetta Co., Ltd., a developer company. We will continue to promote the research and development of nanofibers and promote their widespread use in society by leveraging the corporate strength we have cultivated over the years.
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