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Self-cleaning cotton a sunny idea

Thursday, 12 January 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

The end of wash-day blues has come a step closer, with researchers developing a cotton that cleans itself in sunlight.

 

A coating of titanium dioxide and nitrogen dissolves stains, and deodorises the fabric whenever sunshine hits it. The effect continues to work after a wash.

 

Scientists have developed similar fabrics, but they only worked under direct UV lights, rather than the weaker ultraviolet rays from the sun.

 

Titanium dioxide is used in sunscreen. The effect – where it kicks off chemical reactions – has been known since the 1960s.

 

But researchers have failed to come up with a fabric that could use the sun’s relatively weak rays to start a cleaning reaction – until now.

 

Are self-cleaning fabrics the next frontier with regard to frequently-washed items? The concept could be applied to camping and sporting gear, kids’ school uniforms and even baby clothes.