Looking at the outline of scientific innovations across the board, the boundaries are continuing to be pushed to unlock the potential of various new advancements. All of these to combat the challenges created by everyday life from the necessity of cleaner air to the shift in climate over the last couple of decades. One of these incredible advancements is nanofibers. For those who are unfamiliar with nanofibers, they have unique properties that are difficult to attain by other mediums across various industries. It is one of the most versatile new materials that is entering the market today. They are indeed nano in size, where to put it in perspective, 1 nanometer is equivalent to 0.0000001 cm. 

Two of the sectors where adoption of this application has become prevalent include the commercial and residential building sectors. Ranging from HVAC, to Air Purification, to N95 Masks, there are several nanofiber applications that have made an enormous impact for this industry. 

Commercial Buildings

When it comes to commercial building applications, there are several differing industries that all utilize varying nanofiber applications. 

Here is a list of different commercial buildings where you may find some nanofiber applications:

  • Office Spaces
  • Healthcare Buildings
  • Airports
  • Skyscrapers

Residential Buildings

Likewise, for residential homes, nanofiber applications are growing in number for the commonness of them. Whether it is the people wearing masks in this places or with the increase 

Here are some places where nanofiber technology may be found:

  • Apartment Buildings
  • Houses, Townhomes, and Condos
  • College Dorms and Hotels

Applications: Current and Potential

Over the course of the last century, following the patent of the initial electrospinning process in 1902, the continuing advancements allowed for the process to be placed into several areas from medical to industrial to everyday people gaining access to nanofibers and nanotechnology. In particular over the last 30 years, major strides have been made which led to nanofibers being present in the spaces that we see today.   

The order of the following applications is ordered from what is currently heavily saturated within a given industry first to what has the potential to be a product entering the market in the near future as advancements continue to be made with nanofibers and nanotechnology.

Masks and N95 Respirators

To start off with the application that is the most relevant and is not necessarily for the buildings, but rather for the people within these buildings is the application of nanofibers to N95 Masks. N95 became a household word to use across the United States as society resides in a perpetual global pandemic from Covid-19. There was even a shortage of these masks amidst the height of the pandemic leading to a dramatic increase in US production of masks. One area of technology, however, that was not necessarily at the N95 level right away from the start of the pandemic, but is now relevant is the use of nanofibers in this industry. 

Nanofibers are relevant to the N95 Respirator Industry as a filter media coating; however, there are also several non-N95 masks that utilize nanofiber coated filter media as their mask filter. These companies are achieving great results in sales and support as they are constantly selling out and on back order as a result. For these companies specifically, the supply chain issues created by the pandemic is largely what causes inventory to sell out before they have the opportunity to restock. These mask companies look to US based companies who are able to help them with such manufacturing to eliminate the possibility of being entangled by a global supply chain crisis.

HVAC Filters

One of the applications that is slowly gaining traction for the use of nanofibers on a global scale is for HVAC filters. These filters are given a certain MERV rating based upon their filtration efficiency. Nanofibers will step up the game relative to other MERV filters because unlike most HVAC filters, nanofibers technology allows for a washability factor, such as the filters made by Filti. Likewise, because of the size of the filter, the overall depth of the filter can be much smaller, allowing it to fit into already existing systems that carry 2” and 4” depth filters. 

Nonetheless, there is one drawback that these filters have which is that they collect all particulate matter nearly; therefore, a good pre-filter that can take on the larger particulate matter before it reaches the nanofiber membrane is essential. 

With the CDC’s recent recommendation to increase the MERV rating of the filters nationwide to MERV 13, there is large demand for these types of filters especially with the recommendation pushing more towards a MERV 13A filter rather than a MERV 13. The difference between them is large and very important to understand as a building owner. The issue comes in where the pressure drop of the MERV 13A filter usually does not match the capacity of the HVAC systems in commercial buildings. This is where nanofibers may have the opportunity to match the ability that current MERV 13A filters are not able to match. This is due largely to the fact that nanofibers can still maintain very high filtration efficiency with a very low pressure drop. 

Residential Air Purifier Units

Similar to HVAC systems in commercial buildings, air purifier units and devices are used to help eliminate particulate matter from the air through processing in home air through a filter. Air purifiers increased in sales with over 10 million being sold in 2020 with roughly every 2 out of 5 people using an air purifier. Nanofibers have the potential to make waves in this growing industry as well. 

Window Coating: Quantum Dots

Solar panels and other alternative forms of energy alike are continuing to become more prevalent among residential and commercial buildings. A new and innovative way of collecting and storing energy is through a clear coating that goes onto the windows of buildings. Largely, this would be very efficient for buildings such as offices where nearly every inch of the outside of the building is covered by a window. 

A company who has made recent headway in this area is UbiQD. They recently installed their quantum dot solar windows into 3 separate commercial buildings with large plans for growth in the near future for larger and larger projects. These quantum dots are nanotechnology, not nanofibers; thus, they are made differently as the process does not entail electrospinning.

Nanofiber technology will continue to further its potential as the lab results and theories are taken from research and brought to life by industry experts and professionals. These tiny pieces of technology have potential as large as they are small, and through efforts by incredible people and companies, this potential will continue to be unlocked at the nanoscale.

About the Company:

Matregenix Inc. is a California-based technology company that designs, develops, and manufactures highly tunable nanofibrous materials adaptable to the customized needs in a wide range of applications.

Contact Information:

Contact Person Name: Sherif Soliman

Company: Matregenix, Inc.

Email: info@matregenix.com

Location: Irvine, California, USA

References

  1. Shi, S., Bian, Y., Zhang, L., & Chen, C. (2017). A method for assessing the performance of nanofiber films coated on window screens in reducing residential exposures to PM 2.5 of outdoor origin in Beijing. Indoor air, 27(6), 1190-1200.
  2. Lim, C. T. (2017). Nanofiber technology: current status and emerging developments. Progress in Polymer Science, 70, 1-17.