Pollution-busting clothes set to boost air quality

Wearing clothes that purify the air could soon be a reality thanks to the development of liquid laundry additive that contains microscopic pollution-eating particles.

The novel idea could be brought to market within the next two years as plans are underway to commercialise the technology, developed by scientists at the University of Sheffield in collaboration with the London College of Fashion.

As clothes are washed with the CatClo additive, titanium dioxide nanoparticles grip onto the fabric – they later react with nitrogen oxide pollutants in the air and oxidise them.

The nitrogen oxides treated in this way are odourless and colourless and pose no pollution hazard as they are removed when the item of clothing is next washed, if they haven’t already been dissipated harmlessly in sweat.

According to researchers, one person wearing such treated clothes would be able to remove around 5g of nitrogen oxides from the air in an average day – equivalent to the amount produced each day by the average family car.

Professor Tony Ryan who has co-led the project said the additive was just one of the advances the University was making in the field of photocatalytic materials – materials that, in the presence of light, catalyse chemical reactions.

“If thousands of people in a typical town used the additive, the result would be a significant improvement in local air quality,” he claimed.
“This additive creates the potential for community action to deliver a real environmental benefit that could actually help to cut disease and save lives.”

The University is now working closely with a manufacturer of environmentally friendly cleaning products to commercialise the product.

Nitrogen oxides produced by road vehicle exhausts are a major source of ground-level air pollution in towns and cities, aggravating asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Maxine Perella

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