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This Cotton Uses Light to Clean Itself

It looks like laundry’s days are numbered.

Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia have discovered a new way to grow nanostructures on textiles that degrade organic matter (think: food stains) when exposed to light.

According to a study published in the Advanced Materials Interfaces journal, the scientists attached copper- and silver-based nanostructures to interwoven threads of a cotton textile, which then cleaned itself in less than six minutes by simply being worn in the sun or put near a lightbulb.

“The advantage of textiles is they already have a 3-D structure so they are great at absorbing light, which in turn speeds up the process of degrading organic matter,” Dr. Rajesh Ramanathan, a materials engineer at RMIT who led the research, told the Daily Mail. “There’s more work to do before we can start throwing out our washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textiles.”

And while the technology was tested on cotton, Ramanthan said it may be possible to work with other types of materials and that the process could help design new multifunctional fabrics in the future.

“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,” he added.