Have Australian scientists invented fabric that cleans itself?

The colour red indicates the presence of nanoparticles. (Image: RMIT).
The colour red indicates the presence of nanoparticles on this fabric, which has been magnified 200 times. (Image: RMIT).

You may have seen reports in the news that scientists from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have invented self-cleaning clothes. This isn’t exactly true but it’s certainly an interesting development.

What Rajesh Ramanathan and his colleagues have actually done is treat ordinary fabric with nanotechnology. They grew silver-based nanostructures less than a billionth of a metre in size and applied them directly onto the fabric by dipping it into liquid solutions. When exposed to light the nanostructures release a burst of energy that degrades organic matter. Both sunlight and artificial light have this effect, meaning that in the future we could clean fabrics just by placing them under a light bulb.

Here you can see the nanostructures grown on the fabric; they have been magnified 150,000 times. (Image: RMIT).
Here you can see the nanostructures grown on the fabric; they have been magnified 150,000 times. (Image: RMIT).

During testing some of the nanostructures took less than six minutes to clean themselves. Now the team wants to test how well common stains respond to the fabric, including sweat, food and drink. The team have suggested that future applications of this technology could include sports clothing as well as ordinary clothes, furniture, curtains and bed linen.

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