Clothes might soon clean themselves with sunlight

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2016-03-25 15:10:00 – Sydney

Researcher from RMIT University in Australia, including one of Indian origin, have designed a low cost technology by which textile can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply in less than six minutes by being put under a light bulb or worn out in the Sun.

The new technology is developed with a cheap and efficient way to grow special nanostructures - which can degrade organic matter when brought into contact with light - directly onto textiles.

The process developed by the team has a variety of applications for catalysis-based industries such as agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and natural products, and could be easily scaled up to industrial levels.

Rajesh Ramanathan from RMIT University said that the advantage of textiles is they already have a 3D structure so they are great at absorbing light, which in turn speeds up the process of degrading organic matter.

There’s more work to do to before they can start throwing out washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textiles, he said.

The researchers including Dipesh Kumar and Vipul Bansal, also from RMIT University, worked with copper and silver-based nanostructures, which are known for their ability to absorb visible light.

When the nanostructures are exposed to light, they receive an energy boost that creates “hot electrons.” These “hot electrons” release a burst of energy that enables the nanostructures to degrade organic matter.

The team’s approach was to grow the nanostructures directly onto the textiles by dipping them into a few solutions, resulting in the development of stable nanostructures within 30 minutes. When exposed to light, it took less than six minutes for some of the nano-enhanced textiles to spontaneously clean themselves.

The challenge for researchers has been to bring the concept out of the lab by working out how to build these nanostructures on an industrial scale and permanently attach them to textiles.

Ramanathan said that their next step will be to test their nano-enhanced textiles with organic compounds that could be more relevant to consumers, to see how quickly they can handle common stains like tomato sauce or wine.

Coming days sunlight will be used to clean off clothes, ending all washing woes and washing clothes to become a thing of the past.

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