Not a fan of laundry day? What if you could do your washing while enjoying the sunshine? Researchers at RMIT University, in Melbourne, have developed a self-cleaning fabric that could make this possible in the near future. Nanoparticles embedded in cotton fabrics could degrade organic matter such as dirt, dust, and sweat when exposed to any light source.
For this stroke of magic, nanostructures used by the RMIT University team are made of copper and silver. These metals are generally used as catalysts to accelerate a chemical reaction, and are known for their ability to react in the presence of a visible light source (sunlight, or even a simple light bulb). The nanostructures then receive an energy boost that creates “hot electrons“, which in turn enables them to degrade organic molecules. When a light source is introduced, the nanostructures take less than six minutes to break down organic matter.
This may sound somewhat exaggerated and conceptual, but according to an article published in Advanced Materials Interfaces, the team has already developed a method to grow nanostructures on cotton fabrics directly, permanently embedding them in textiles. After immersing the material in tin chloride, palladium salts, and copper salt solutions, the team observed the complete development of nanostructures in less than 30 minutes (Figure 1).
With some improvements, the researchers believe they will soon be able to produce these nanotextiles on an industrial scale. “Our next step will be to test our textiles with organic compounds (that may be more relevant for customers) to determine how quickly they can handle common stains like tomato sauce or wine,” said Dr Rajesh Ramanathan, researcher with the RMIT.
These nanomaterials are so easy to produce that researchers believe the self-cleaning fabrics could be launched on the market within a few years.
Anouer Kebir is currently working toward the PhD degree in electrical engineering at ÉTS. His research interests include real-time optimization and control of solar energy and bioenergy.
Program : Electrical Engineering
Research laboratories : GREPCI – Power Electronics and Industrial Control Research Group