Sonovia’s technique, developed at Bar-Ilan University, could also make fabrics fire resistant, water repellant and even body odor-proof.
Hospital bedsheets and patient gowns are a major conduit for transferring dangerous bacteria estimated to infect 1.7 million hospitalized Americans and 3.5 million hospitalized Europeans every year. In the United States, hospital-acquired infections kill about 98,000 people yearly. While the materials used to make these items generally contain an antibacterial coating, it washes out after as few as 15 cleaning cycles.
Chemistry professors Aharon Gedanken and Ilana Perelshtei from Bar-Ilan University have developed a new way to bacteria-proof the fabrics used in a hospital.
Their method uses ultrasound waves to induce a physical phenomenon known as “cavitation,” in which rapid changes of pressure in a liquid lead to the formation of tiny vapor-filled cavities. Antibacterial chemicals are propelled onto the molecular structure of the fabric at tremendous speed. The technique can be used at the final stage of manufacturing and works with all types of fabric.
That compares with the two main technologies for making antibacterial fabric today: “extrusion,” in which silver, copper or zinc particles are inserted into the raw material used to make synthetic fibers, and “fabric finishing,” which adds an antibacterial liquid to the manufacturing process, which then chemically binds to the fabrics. Israeli company Cupron is a leader in using the extrusion method. Both methods are limited to polymer-based fabrics, so they cannot be used for cotton or nylon.
Gedanken and Perelshtein’s technique uses far fewer chemicals while maintaining a fabric’s antibacterial properties for up to 65 launderings at 92 degrees Celsius or 100 washing cycles at 75 degrees Celsius.
In 2013, the project spun out of the university into a company called Nanotextile, which received a global license from Bar-Ilan to commercialize the technology. It was not until 2017, when Nanotextile renegotiated the acquisition of a North American license that the potential of Gedanken and Perelshtein’s antibacterial innovation finally took off. The company was rebranded as Sonovia. Elli Assa, an Israeli textile industry executive and senior lecturer at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, was recruited as CEO.
One of Assa’s first acts was to ink a deal with Bruckner Textile Machinery, a leading manufacturer with experience in the extrusion technique for antibacterial coating. The companies together designed a pilot machine based on Sonovia’s technology. The sheets could be used in hospitals as early as next year.
Fire-, water- and odor-proof
Assa and his team realized that the technology Gedanken and Perelshtein had developed was relevant to more than just antibacterial sheets. It was used for all manner of textile additions – for example, it could make fabrics fire resistant, water repellant and even body odor-proof. “We can make a shirt that prevents body odor and lasts longer than similar shirts on the market,” says Roy Hirsch, Sonovia’s Vice President of Business Development.
Moreover, Sonovia’s process, which reduces the amount of chemicals required, is exactly what textile manufacturers – who are becoming increasingly concerned with the environmental impact of their products – have started to demand.
Another Israeli company, Twine has built a machine to digitally print colors onto thread, eliminating much of the water and chemicals used in the traditional thread-dyeing process. “We think Twine is brilliant,” Hirsch says. “It’s a completely different technology with completely different customers, but it’s a blessing what they’re doing.”
Sonovia was picked in 2017 to participate in the Fashion for Good Plug and Play Accelerator in Amsterdam, intended for startups trying to make the fashion industry more environmentally friendly and socially aware. It was in the accelerator that Sonovia began developing its fire- and water-resistant products. Sonovia received a $230,000 investment from the accelerator when it “graduated” last year. The company is now in a follow-up program that Hirsch says will grant Sonovia access to high-end brands such as Gucci and Calvin Klein.
Gedanken and Perelshtein are advisers to the company while continuing their work at Bar-Ilan. Sonovia has raised $1.3 million in addition to the original European Union grant.
“The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world,” Hirsch says. If Sonovia succeeds, it can help reduce the amount of chemicals wasted, keep hospital patients safer from superbugs, and producing what Hirsch promises will be “fabric that will always feel as soft as when it left the store.”
The Indian Textile Industry, Hospitals etc. would benefit from this technology. Interested officials are hereby, invited to contact the Economic and Trade Department:
Ms. Veshala Gajaraj
Phone: +91-80-4940 6517