Giving your laundry a 'green spin' at the Manchester Science Festival

| 29th October 2012
Exciting new nanotechnology is to be showcased at the Manchester Science Festival this week. The exhibit 'Catalytic Clothing' explores the potential for clothing and textiles to purify the air we breathe.
your jeans - a weapon in the war on pollution?

When most people think of green clothing they imagine fairly traded, organic materials from sustainable sources. These textiles aim to reduce the impact of clothing manufacture on the environment, and promote fairer working conditions. But imagine if your clothing, rather than just lessening the negative impacts of the industry, actually had a positive effect on your immediate environment.

This is exactly what the creators of a new laundry liquid additive called CatClo hope to achieve. The additive contains nanoparticles (very very small particles) of titanium dioxide which become embedded in the weave of the fabric during the first wash and remain there. When these particles come into contact with nitrogen oxides in the air they oxidise these pollutants, rendering them harmless. Researchers have found that the pollution-eating additive binds particularly well to denim, and considering there are more pairs of jeans than people on planet earth, there is real potential for this chemical technology to greatly improve air quality.

This was demonstrated at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on ‘WENDY’, a 14-metre high, spiky-armed experimental construction covered in nylon fabric. WENDY was sprayed with the additive and, over a 10-week period, removed nitrogen oxides from the air equivalent to the amount produced by around 260 cars. Professor Tony Ryan OBE of the University of Sheffield, who co-led the project, points out that “this technology will not only deliver environmental benefits, but could actually help to cut disease and save lives”. 

Now the research is being featured at Manchester Science Festival, from the 27thOctober - 4th November. Artist and designer Helen Storey (London College of Fashion) and scientist Tony Ryan (University of Sheffield) have been working together to explore how the nanotechnology can eliminate harmful pollutants that cause health problems and contribute to climate change. The result of their research includes a 'catalytic clothing field of jeans', and is featured at the festival this week.

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Andrea Gear is the editorial intern at The Ecologist