The Loh Down On Science

Self-Cleaning Clothes

These clothes won't clean themselves! Or ... will they?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Throwing out soap and water, and throwing open a window--thanks to a fabric that removes its own stains and smells, with light.

Really!

This wonderstuff comes from a materials science duo in China. They treated ordinary cotton with nanoparticles of titanium dioxide. That's the chalky stuff that gives white gooiness to sunscreen and cosmetics.

Other scientists had done that before, but only for ultraviolet rays. Which meant you had to fish out your blacklight to do the laundry.

But no longer! In the new experiment, the scientists devised a titanium dioxide dip for the fabric, then added silver iodide--the stuff that coats paper used in printing photos from film.

The chemical combination delivered the one-two punch needed by the cotton to break down stains. Win-win!

Laundry that does itself! But does it sort itself and fold itself? Paging Mary Poppins.



The Loh Down on Science, online, at lohdown.org. Produced by 89.3 KPCC and the California Institute of Technology, and made possible by TIAA-CREF.

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