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No more washing: Nano-enhanced textiles clean themselves with light

New technique to grow nanostructures that degrade organic matter when exposed to light

Date:
March 22, 2016
Source:
RMIT University
Summary:
Pioneering research paves way towards nano-enhanced textiles that can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply by being put under a light bulb or worn out in the sun.
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Close-up of the nanostructures grown on cotton textiles by RMIT University researchers. Image magnified 150,000 times.
Credit: RMIT University

A spot of sunshine is all it could take to get your washing done, thanks to pioneering nano research into self-cleaning textiles.

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cheap and efficient new way to grow special nanostructures -- which can degrade organic matter when exposed to light -- directly onto textiles.

The work paves the way towards nano-enhanced textiles that can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply by being put under a light bulb or worn out in the sun.

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

"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," he said.

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

The researchers from the Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility and NanoBiotechnology Research Lab at RMIT 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 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.

The RMIT team's novel 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.

"Our next step will be to test our 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," Ramanathan said.

The research is published on March 23, 2016 in the high-impact journal Advanced Materials Interfaces.


Story Source:

Materials provided by RMIT University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Samuel R. Anderson, Mahsa Mohammadtaheri, Dipesh Kumar, Anthony P. O'Mullane, Matthew R. Field, Rajesh Ramanathan, Vipul Bansal. Robust Nanostructured Silver and Copper Fabrics with Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance Property for Effective Visible Light Induced Reductive Catalysis. Advanced Materials Interfaces, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/admi.201500632

Cite This Page:

RMIT University. "No more washing: Nano-enhanced textiles clean themselves with light: New technique to grow nanostructures that degrade organic matter when exposed to light." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 March 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160322110256.htm>.
RMIT University. (2016, March 22). No more washing: Nano-enhanced textiles clean themselves with light: New technique to grow nanostructures that degrade organic matter when exposed to light. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160322110256.htm
RMIT University. "No more washing: Nano-enhanced textiles clean themselves with light: New technique to grow nanostructures that degrade organic matter when exposed to light." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160322110256.htm (accessed September 29, 2016).