Scientists in Germany are studying the environmental impact of silver nano-materials in a bid to shed new light on the safety of textiles treated this way.

Led by the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim, 16 research institutions, industry and regulatory authorities are working on the project to investigate the behaviour and effect of the particles in the environment.

More than 1000 kilograms of nano-silver are already used each year in a range of applications, including antimicrobial benefits which prevent textiles becoming colonised by pathogenic or odour-forming bacteria. Treated textiles are used in medical applications, sport and leisure wear, protective workwear and technical textiles.

However, during production or when they are rubbed during use, during washing and disposal, the antimicrobial effect of the silver can affect various environmental processes.

Project leader Dr Claßen wants to prove that this does not cause any harm to the water, soil and ground water.

“With this major project, we are closing a big gap in textile research. The data we obtain in the project about the characteristic features of the size, shape and surface properties of silver nano-particles will form an important basis for assessing the risk that textiles treated with silver nano-particles pose to the environment.”