December 17, 2011
Researchers Develop Self-Cleaning Cotton Fabric
A group of engineers funded by Donghua University and the National Natural Science Foundation of China released a report recently about a method of making cotton into a self-cleaning fabric.
The method uses titanium dioxide, which is a white material found in everything from food products to white paint and sunscreen lotions. According to the BBC the chemical is also known to be an “excellent catalyst in the degradation of organic pollutants.”
Products that already contain titanium dioxide for its self-cleaning properties include bathroom tiles, self-cleaning windows, and odor-free socks. These materials take advantage of titanium dioxides ability to kill microbes and break down dirt under ultraviolet light.
The researchers set out to make a fabric that would self-clean under sunlight conditions. The coating for the fabric starts with a nanoparticle alcohol-based compound of titanium dioxide and nitrogen.
This mixture is added to triethylamine, an acid neutralizer found in dyes, and stirred at room temperature for 12 hours. Then the liquid is heated to 100C for another six hours. The cotton fabric is then immersed into the mixture then squeezed dry, heated and placed in hot clean water. Finally the material is treated with silver iodide particles, this aids the light based reactions.
The coated material was tested with an orange colored dye against an untreated fabric sample. After two hours of sunlight exposure the 71% of the orange dye had been removed, compared to none on the untreated fabric.
This new discovery could have lasting retail effects if they are able to duplicate the process on an industrial scale.
Isabelle Cavill, a clothing analyst at Planet Retail told the BBC, “This kind of functional clothing has already proved very popular, especially in Japan where the authorities ordered a crackdown on air conditioning use after march´s earthquake caused power shortages.”
The report was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
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