Part of the show The Science of Light
Housewives (and house-husbands !) may soon have empty laundry baskets and lower water bills to look forward to thanks to researchers at Clemson University, who have discovered how to make a dirt-resistant fabric coating. The new highly water-repellant coating is made from a polymer gel (polyglycidyl methacrylate) mixed with silver nanoparticles and promises to offer superior resistance to dirt, meaning it needs cleaning much less often. Treated-clothes can be made in any colour because the coating is added after the material has been dyed. Phil Brown, one of the researchers behind the new coating, likens the concept to a lotus plant, the leaves of which are known to 'self clean' by repelling dirt and water. When water does come along, dirt is carried away much more easily. In the same way, dirt can simply by sprayed or wiped from clothes made with the new coating which, unlike conventional water-repellant coatings, is permanently bonded to the fabric so it can't wash off. The team are now working on a way to engineer antimicrobial particles into the coating which would also help to cut down odours such as cigarette smoke, and even body odours (so presumably the wearer doesn't need to wash either !).