Goodbye washing machines, Aussie researchers develop self-cleaning textiles by just exposing to light

By @vitthernandez on
Washing Machine
A Samsung front-loading washing machine with an AddWash feature is shown at the Samsung Electronics booth during the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 7, 2016. Reuters/Steve Marcus

One of the back-breaking household chores that had become a lot easier with the introduction of washing machines would even become easier. Washing clothes would become unnecessary to maintain hygiene.

All that would be needed to be done is to expose the used clothing to light. It could be sunlight or artificial light. Behind this liberating discovery are self-cleaning textiles developed by researchers at Australia’s RMIT University, reports ABC.

The scientists grew nanostructures on textiles, which when exposed to light, release a burst energy that degrades organic matter. The team at the university’s Ian Potter NanoBioSensing Facility and NanoBiotechnology Research Lab worked with silver- and copper-based nanostructures because of the ability of these two materials to absorb visible light.

After absorbing light, the nanostructures excited the metal nanoparticles present on the fabric’s surface. Because of the energy, it degrades organic matters that are present which is how stains are removed, according to the study published in Advanced Materials Interfaces journal.

“Basically what we do is take a simple cotton textile, we have a few different new methodologies to grow nanostructures directly on them, and then once these structures are formed we can just shine light on them,” explains Dr Rajesh Ramanathan, one of the facility’s lead researchers.

Between the two materials, one worked very fast, with its degradation process taking only between six and 10 minutes of exposure to light. The other took longer, about 30 minutes but was more stable.

But the team had only tested it on stains, not yet on sweat. It was also tested on some difficult organic compounds that were successfully degraded. Ramanathan adds they are now trying more consumer-related products such as food and wine stains. Once successful, the team’s next step would be to develop antibacterial fabrics that has capability of killing superbugs.

But Ramanathan cautions, “There’s more work to do 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.”