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UK scientist develops technology for air-purifying clothes

06
Jan '12
Image coutesy: The University of Sheffield
A well-known polymer chemist from UK has devised a process for “catalytic clothing” that would absorb pollution from the atmosphere when worn.

The new process has been developed by Professor Tony Ryan, a pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, based on existing self-cleaning technology for glass and paints that use photocatalysts to break pollutants like nitrous oxide that arise from automotive and industrial sources.

Prof. Ryan roughly calculated that the total surface area of the fibres of his suit is about 80 sq m. In his calculation, he took note of the fact that the fibres have a very high surface area per unit mass as they are long and thin.

Next, Prof. Ryan thought of putting a catalyst on the surface of the fabric to see if it can do environmental clean-up. He used titanium dioxide as a catalyst.

He then collaborated with Helen Storey, a fashion designer whose creations have been adorned by the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince.

Currently, Ryan and Storey are working with Ecover, a company that manufactures cleaning products, to come out with a fabric conditioner based on the newly developed technology. The use of conditioner during a normal laundry wash would lead to titanium dioxide nanoparticles sticking themselves to clothes.

Storey said the new technology would take advantage of human behaviour, as it is the common tendency of people to walk in the street and wash their clothes. It would empower people's existing garment collection to positively impact the quality of air we breathe.

She found that the process especially works well on denim jeans. She says the number of pairs of jeans on earth today exceed the world population. Prof. Ryan estimates that a 500 gm pair of jeans would absorb around 2 gm of pollution.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India


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