26 March 2008

The country will be shod in nanos

Natalia Bykova, STRF.ruLong before the appearance of Rosnanotech, which does not spare millions for the development of nanotechnology production, the director of the small knitting company "Mayor" Vladimir Rodionov conceived the idea of producing socks with the addition of silver nanoparticles – the strongest natural antibiotic capable of destroying more than 650 species of bacteria.

Владимир Родионов: В конце 90-х, когда государство совсем перестало поддерживать учёных, я забросил исследования и ушёл в бизнес, развивать производство чулочно-носочных изделий

"I am a physicist by education, and once I was actively engaged in science," Vladimir explains his interest in the latest technologies. – Only in the late 90s, when the state completely stopped supporting scientists, abandoned research and went into business to develop the production of hosiery. At this time, a real nanotechnology boom began abroad. The most authoritative journals began to publish articles about new results in the study of materials; the Internet began to talk, however, only in English, about the great future of the nascent nanoscience. I just couldn't remain indifferent...".

Yesterday's physicist also came to the attention of an article by Chinese scientists, which talked about the possibility of producing textiles using nanotechnology. "There was no specifics in the publication," Vladimir recalls.  They just wrote that it would probably be nice to treat knitwear with silver nanoparticles – the strongest antiseptic that kills most of the known bacteria. But it was enough. I caught fire with the idea of applying a nanotechnological approach to the production of socks, resumed all scientific ties and established cooperation with scientists of the D.I. Mendeleev Russian University of Chemical Technology."

Thus, work began on the creation of a domestic technology for applying noble metal nanomembranes to ordinary textiles. As a result, socks appeared, which, according to the instructions, provide a favorable environment for the feet of their wearer, prevent the formation of unpleasant odors and retain their unique properties after prolonged use and repeated washings.

Domestic socks differ from foreign ones

And yet earlier "silver" socks appeared on the American and European markets. In 2005, the technology of manufacturing silver threads, originally intended for the production of army socks, was patented in the USA. Last year, the Tallinn firm SUVA, under an American license, launched the production of "civilian" nanotricotage, which quickly won the hearts, or rather, the legs of the Balts, and left Estonia for the markets of Finland and Sweden. Tallinn is so proud of this fact that socks made using American technology are seriously called "Estonian nokia".

But after getting acquainted with the products of competitors, Vladimir Rodionov concluded that the technological path he had chosen was different from the foreign one. "Foreigners process synthetics with silver, and we process cotton," he clarifies. – In the first case, only part of the sock is "silver" (artificial threads, as a rule, are present only in the heel and toe parts, and make up no more than ten percent of the product), in the second – the noble metal is evenly sprayed over the entire surface of the product."

The domestic recipe for the "ennobling" of cotton fiber is kept strictly secret. "The technology is in the patenting stage," explains Rodionov. – The development of a technique for applying silver to fabric and the search for equipment with which to implement this idea took more than two and a half years, and if I open at least some maps now, they will catch up with me in a maximum of six months."

However, the machinations of ubiquitous competitors are far from the only headache of an entrepreneur working on the promotion of nanotowards. Before putting the fashionable label "nanotechnology" on the label, Vladimir had to prove that there are particles in the billionth of a meter in the composition of his products. And it was not easy to prove this, since the Russian certification bodies have not yet learned to recognize nanoscale particles. The examination was conducted by a closed government agency, the name of which our hero decided not to disclose in the press. The presence of silver in the socks was confirmed by the results of high-tech analyses and the issuance of an appropriate certificate.

"700,000 Russians are ready to buy nanos"

High-tech projects, as a rule, are completed by obtaining a certificate or, at best, a patent. But Vladimir Rodionov is not going to stop there. He is studying the demand and is preparing to introduce silver socks to the market.

Experimental batches have already been released in two price categories – 350 and 60 rubles per pair. The difference in price is caused not by the amount of silver, which is an infinitesimal part – no more than five millionths of the weight of the product, but by the quality of the base of the sock product. Actually, the prefix "nano" gives a margin of only 30-50 rubles.

At first glance, this is quite a bit. But Rodionov notes that not every buyer will understand even a slight rise in the price of a simple product due to some particles invisible to the naked eye. The demand for nanotechnology needs to be formed. "The queue for the "silver" socks will be lined up only when they talk about their advantages on Channel One every half hour," the inventor is sure. – While the people do not understand what we are talking about. Try to ask in an elite store about the availability of nanotricotage on sale! It's good if you don't get scolded!".

At the same time, the entrepreneur believes that even without high costs, with a competent marketing approach, it is possible to awaken a small stable interest in nanotechnological goods in society. He conducted such an experiment: in one Moscow store he put up for sale a trial batch of socks, having previously arranged an hour-long educational program on nanotechnology for a change of sellers. As a result, the customers who were served by the enlightened shift purchased three times more products than those who were sold by sellers who were not knowledgeable in "nano".

An approximate analysis of demand was also carried out, according to which in At least 700 thousand people are ready to buy 10 pairs of nanos in Russia every year. However, a relatively small private enterprise is not able to provide even a minimum of "needy" with these knitwear. "In order to have enough socks for everyone, it is necessary to involve several more hosiery factories in the process of their production," Rodionov notes. "But first I have to fully describe the technological chain of the process of applying silver to cotton, so that it becomes clear to anyone, and other enterprises could produce socks under our license."

Currently, Vladimir Rodionov is working on a description of the technology, and almost does not worry about the necessary investments to expand the business. He says that the owners of large capital have already been interested in nanos. However, while the contracts have not been signed, and the mass consumer has not fully appreciated the achievements of modern nanoscientific thought, it is probably premature to predict a great future for domestic silver textiles.

Tested on yourself

And, finally, the most interesting thing is to test in practice the unique domestic technology of applying silver on knitwear. The first to test the socks was the manufacturer Vladimir Rodionov himself: he wore them without taking them off for two weeks. As a result, the socks got dirty, but they did not emit a specific aroma and did not create blatant discomfort to the feet. Conclusion: you can go hiking, hunting or fishing in them. Then Vladimir maliciously washed his socks 11 times in a row, and made sure that silver retains its wonderful properties after repeated washings.

After that, a batch of 100 pairs was sent to the serious, already mentioned in this article, "classified" department for an experimental sock. I have not seen the conclusion of the experiment, but judging by the fact that the agency has certified the nanos, the products have been tested.

And, of course, collecting the material, I could not deny myself the pleasure of arranging my, in my opinion, the most independent examination, the first domestic nanotechnology knitwear. And I was bitterly disappointed: so far, the Mayor company produces only men's nanos, at least size 40. However, it promises to expand the range.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru25.03.2008

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