New nanotech fabric dissolves odor and stains whenever it’s exposed to bright light

Nanostructure material makes clothing that cleans itself in the sun
RMIT University
Not a big fan of laundry day? Well what if you could wash your clothes just by stepping into the sunshine? Thanks to researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, a self-cleaning textile could make that possible in the very near future. With the help of special nanostructures grown directly into the fabric, these new textiles could degrade organic matter like dirt, dust, and sweat when exposed to a concentrated light source.

To achieve this effect, the nanostructures used by the RMIT University team are made copper and silver. These metals are great at absorbing visible light, and when they’re exposed to light from the sun or even a light bulb, the nanostructures react with increased energy that creates “hot electrons”.

Self-cleaning clothing possible with nanostructure textile from RMIT
Image magnified 150,000 times RMIT University

Hot electrons have to expend their excess energy somehow, and in this case they do so with a rapid burst that lets the nanostructures degrade organic molecules. Once a light source is introduced, the nanostructures take less than six minutes to break down organic matter — in effect cleaning themselves completely.

It might sound a bit far-fetched and conceptual, but believe it or not, the team has already developed a method for growing these nanostructures directly onto textiles in order to fuse them permanently into a single material. After dipping the textiles into liquid solutions, the team observed full nanostructure development in less than 30 minutes.

With a few more improvements, the researchers believe they’ll soon be able to produce these nano-textiles on an industrial level. “Our next step will be to test our nano-enhanced textiles with organic compounds that could be more relevant to consumers, to see how quickly they can handle common stains like tomato sauce or wine,” said Dr. Rajesh Ramanathan, a researcher on the RMIT team.

Most people don’t think about cleaning clothes as a process of breaking down organic matter on a molecular level, but this new textile solution could bring efficiency and sustainability to the dreaded laundry day, and even encourage people to get outside more often.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

What do you do with 187 megapixels? The Lumix S1R is glorious overkill

The Lumix S1R is one of the most capable cameras ever made, from its robust build to extensive feature set. But its key feature, a 187MP high resolution mode, is something few customers will have use for.
Mobile

Rooting your Android device is risky. Do it right with our handy guide

Wondering whether to root your Android smartphone or stick with stock Android? Perhaps you’ve decided to do it and you just need to know how? Here, you'll find an explanation and a quick guide on how to root Android devices.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Business

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers plan to beam Earth’s greatest hits into deep space, and you can help

A new project from the SETI Institute (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) will give the public the chance to submit compositions to be beamed into space, with the aim of connecting people around the world through music.
Emerging Tech

Twitter is officially a teenager now. Are we raising a monster?

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet. Thirteen years later, Twitter has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Here are some of the myriad ways it's done that.