Washington, March 5 : Nanotechnology-based coatings that clean themselves, and may be used in everything from silk shirts to windshields have been developed, says a report.
The new materials developed by researchers in Indiana, Wisconsin and Australia show promise to kill potentially deadly bacteria, and to reduce the use of environmentally destructive cleaners.
"(Clothes) with self-cleaning properties will become a standard feature of future textiles," Discovery News quoted Walid Daoud, a scientist at the University of Monash in Australia who coated silk and wool with anatase titanium dioxide, a common pigment already used in products, as saying.
He stained both nanotech treated fabrics and non-treated fabrics with red wine, and exposed them to simulated sunlight.
Twenty hours later, the stains on the nanotech-treated fabrics were almost completely gone, while the stains on conventional fabrics remained unaffected.
Study co-author Wing Sze noted that sunlight reacts with the coating to break apart organic molecules like dyes, and turns them into carbon dioxide and water at room temperature.
Although the researchers do not put on nanotech treated fabrics themselves, they are "currently collaborating with a famous textile company for doing mill-trials."
"We believe it won't be long before the product appears on the market," said Sze.
The researcher says that the non-toxic fabrics retain the feel and look of wool and silk.
Besides Australian researchers, University of Wisconsin researchers have also made another self-cleaning material from nanonails that keeps water out, and repels oils, solvents and other hydrocarbons.
The university's Professor Tom Krupenkin, author of the study describing the material, concurs that self-cleaning fabrics will be environmentally friendly, decreasing the use of heavy-duty detergents and solvents.
Jeffrey Youngblood, a materials scientist at Purdue University who is presently working on anti-fog coatings and a device that could be used to easily and safety clean up oil tanker spills, believes that self-cleaning materials will soon be ubiquitous.
"We are seeing the first self-cleaning technologies now. The next ten years will bring a huge array," said Youngblood.