You don’t need to wear the world’s first air-purifying dress to breathe a little easier Catalytic Clothing’s Helen Storey and Tony Ryan are proposing a liquid laundry additive that will turn any garment into a “catalytic surface” for neutralizing environmental pollutants. Photocatalytic treatments that break down airborne pollutants aren’t anything new—the technology already exists in paints, cement, paving stones, and even self-cleaning glass. By harnessing clothing’s large surface area, along with the micro-winds of our body’s natural gait, “CatClo” does them one better, turning our bodies into the “most effective air purifiers of them all,” Storey wrote in the Guardian in May.
CatClo piggybacks the regular laundering process to deposit nanoparticles of titanium dioxide onto the fibers of the clothing. Exposure to light excites electrons on the particles’ surface, creating free radicals that react with water to make hydrogen peroxide. This, in turn, “bleaches out” volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere, according to Storey, rendering them harmless.
Plus, the greater the number of people who wear these clothes down the street, the more profound the impact. “The collective power of everyone wearing clothes treated with CatClo is extraordinary,” Storey said. “If the whole population of a city such as Sheffield was to launder their clothes at home with a product containing CatClo technology they would have the power to remove three tons per day of harmful [nitrogen oxide] pollution.”
The best part about CatClo? The technology is delivered through the laundry process and doesn’t require consumers to buy additional clothes or specialty products. All it needs is critical mass. “The more people walking around our cities in catalyzed clothes the less polluted our cities will be,” Storey added.
Altruism isn’t the easiest concept to sell to big business, however. “We have approached and worked with some of the world’s largest producers of laundry products but even though the technology exists and could be relatively cheap to add to existing products, it’s proved to be a tough sell,” she said. “The fact that by catalyzing your clothes the clean air you create will be breathed in by the person behind you is not seen as marketable.”
Then there’s the fact that photocatalysts can’t distinguish between a “bad” pollutant and a “good” one. CatClo, for instance, treats perfume as just another volatile organic compound. “This is an untenable threat to an entire industry and existing products owned by those best able to take CatClo to market,” said Storey.
Still, not all is lost. Storey and company recently traveled to China where the common good is valued over things like perfume. Considering the lengthening shadow of pollution there, the Asian powerhouse just might be the best place to start.
[Via the Guardian]