Anti-biofouling. Superhydrophobic nonwovens. When we think about fabrics and textiles, these words don’t typically roll off our tongues. Colors, patterns and textures, yes. But epibiosis? Surface wettability?
Today’s students who enter into the discipline of textiles have a dizzying range of materials and applications to study. And once they graduate, the textile jobs that are available to them reach way beyond apparel and interior design – and into the world of industrial and technical applications like automotive, air filtration and more.
Jooyoun Kim knows this well. She teaches textile science and textile sustainability at Kansas State University’s College of Human Ecology. Her research is focused on fabricating and characterizing fibrous materials and exploring the potential applications of their unique properties. That includes developing a novel analytical method that characterizes wetted surfaces from superhydrophobic – or extremely difficult to wet – nonwoven material. By creating a better characterization technique, she is better able to strategize ways to control the surface wettability, or how a liquid spreads out once it hits a surface.
One of the reasons Jooyoun is able to conduct this novel research? She is one of 17 visionary scientists from leading research and development universities in the U.S. who received the 2016 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award. The award provides financial support for non-tenured faculty in selected technical fields of general interest to 3M.
“This award was created more than 25 years ago as a way for 3M to invest in individuals who will lead university teaching and research programs in the future,” says Kenneth Hanley, chair of the award committee. “The intent is to provide unrestricted financial support to help promising faculty receive tenure and contribute to their academic field.”
The award offers scientists the opportunity to remain in academia, teach, conduct research and develop an awareness of science in an industrial setting. That’s where Jooyoun’s textile research someday may be applied.
“Materials with controlled wettability can have a number of interesting industrial applications, including protective materials against hazardous liquids or aerosols, self-cleaning textiles and anti-biofouling surfaces – or surfaces that prevent the accumulation of microorganisms or other living materials,” she says. “These materials can be utilized in air-purifying filtration media, surgical gowns, personal protective garments and potentially as a repellent outer surface to wound dressings.”
Jooyoun is using the 3M grant as seed money to conduct exploratory experiments and pay for her graduate student’s summer salary – which has allowed her to focus on additional research.