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Liquid laundry additive turns clothes into air purifiers


October 1, 2012

Clothing treated with the CatClo laundry additive can remove nitrogen oxides from the air

Clothing treated with the CatClo laundry additive can remove nitrogen oxides from the air

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A laundry additive created by researchers from the University of Sheffield and the London College of Fashion turns clothing into a photocatalytic material that can help remove nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the air. One of the most prominent air pollutants, nitrogen oxides are emitted from the exhausts of ICE-powered vehicles and aggravate asthma and other respiratory diseases. The researchers claim one person getting around town in clothing treated with the additive for a day would be able to remove roughly the same amount of nitrogen oxides produced by the average family car each day.

Dubbed “CatClo,” (short for Catalytic Clothing), the liquid laundry additive contains pollution-eating titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles that, in daylight, oxidize the nitrogen oxides in the fabric when they come into contact with them in the air. The treated nitrogen oxides, which are odorless, colorless and pose no pollution hazard, are then either dissipated harmlessly in the wearer’s sweat of removed in the next wash.

The researchers say the additive itself is also completely harmless and unnoticeable to the wearer. Additionally, because the TiO2 nanoparticles grip to fabrics very tightly, items of clothing only need to be washed in the additive once.

Because the additive is photocatalytic, meaning that the chemical reaction requires light to take place, the clothing best performs its air-purifying magic when worn out in daylight. The researchers claim CatClo treated clothing can remove around 5 grams of nitrogen oxides from the air in the course of a day, which is roughly equivalent to the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted from the exhaust of an average family car each day.

The additive was used to create Wendy, the 14-meter (46 ft) high air-purifying sculpture covered in nylon fabric sprayed with CatClo that was on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) earlier this year. The researchers say that over a 10-week period, Wendy soaked up nitrogen oxides equivalent to the amount produced by around 260 cars.

“If thousands of people in a typical town used the additive, the result would be a significant improvement in local air quality”, says Professor Ryan OBE of the University of Sheffield. “This additive creates the potential for community action to deliver a real environmental benefit that could actually help to cut disease and save lives. In Sheffield, for instance, if everyone washed their clothes in the additive, there would be no pollution problem caused by nitrogen oxides at all.”

The researchers say that as well as the benefits to general air quality, individuals with respiratory conditions could also improve the quality of the air they breathe by wearing clothes treated with CatClo.

The additive is said to function particularly well on denim, which is why a “Field of Jeans” display highlighting the benefits of the technology will be featured as part of the Manchester Science Festival that runs from October 27 to November 4.

The research team is currently working with a manufacturer to bring CatClo to market, with Professor Ryan estimating that using the additive in a final rinse of a full washing load would potentially cost as little as 10 pence (approx. US$0.16).

Source: University of Sheffield

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

What else is in the additive?

TiO2 is used in a number of items that are ingested by humans so there should be no reason not to treat the water with the TiO2 and thereby get more coverage from the variety of everyday uses of water.


We need to be cautious about this.... Not very long ago, if i am not mistaken, I read on a popular Internet site (Gizmag) that certain nano particles were found to cause holes in the brains of fish. Nano TiO2 is used on paint, etc and even then there is a danger of minute amounts ending up in the water. If nano TiO2 were to be directly in contact with skin, what would the long term effects be. Since nano particles can permeate many filtration systems.

Please see this url on Gizmag: www.gizmag.com/nanoparticles-cause-brain-damage-in-fish


Sooooo....I'm going to wash my clothes - with this additive. Then I'm going to hang my freshly laundered clothes out to dry - where the handy additive will cause them to absorb roughly the amount of nitrogen oxides produced by a family car in 1 day.

??? - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Somehow I'm thinking washing my clothes to make them BETTER ABLE to absorb dirt is counter to my intent in washing them in the first place.

Joseph Boe

Joe Boe, did you even read the article? do you know what a catalyst is? NO2 is not absorbed in the clothing, it is broken down into nitrogen gas and oxygen gas, both main components of the air we breath already.

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