Researchers Mingce Long and Deyong Wu have developed the fabric using titanium dioxide (TiO2), a common dye used in a variety of products, including paint, sunscreen, makeup and milk. Its self-cleaning properties have already been applied to household cleaning products, such as self-cleaning tile sprays.
The findings were published in the latest issue of Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Titanium dioxide's photocatalytic properties have been known since the 1960's and is actually one of the 50 most-used naturally occurring chemicals in the world. but Long and Wu's new fabric is unique because it can be activated with sunlight as opposed to only ultraviolet light. More from the sci-fi site Io9:
Simply put, Long and Wu's fabric is more versatile. For decades, TiO2 was only known to exhibit photocatalytic properties in the presence of ultraviolet light. But recently, it was shown that spiking TiO2 with nitrogen ions gives it photocatalytic capabilities in UV light and visible light. By coating their fabric with nano particles made from this new N-TiO2, the researchers have created a fabric that self-cleans in the presence of a very broad spectrum of light. What's more, they found that further dispersing additional silver iodide nanoparticles in the fabric accelerated the N-TiO2's stain-fighting properties.
And if the sunlight doesn't remove the stain off your shirt, you can reportedly still wash your clothes with soap and water without diluting the nanoparticle coating.
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