I read this article on Discovery News a while back and meant to get the blog post up ASAP but it seems it ended up filed away for too long. The article speaks to one of a host of research efforts that would enable people to purchase cotton clothes with different properties than are innate in the fiber itself. A previous example would be all the folks like me who hate to iron and can now buy wrinkle-free cotton.
As someone with a really light complexion, the idea that a cotton shirt could help protect me from damaging rays is something I can get behind. I think I’d be glad to have several in my suitcase on vacations to places like the Philippines, Turkey, Malaysia, etc.
Washing loads of clothes and getting a sunburn have never been particularly enjoyable experiences. However, scientists have developed a coating for cotton fibers that could not only lighten your laundry load, but protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
Using the water-repellent and UV-blocking functions of zinc oxide nanorods, researchers from Northeast Normal University in China created a coating for textiles that not only mimicks the water-repelling nature of the lotus leaf, but was found to have a UV protection factor (UPF) of 101.51, double the highest possible rating.
Previous experiments have created self-cleaning, UV-repellent fabrics through a surface application of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide films. But when team leader Lingling Wang and the rest of the research team modified cotton textiles with zinc oxide nanorods and dumbell-shaped zinc oxide crystallites, they found the material could potentially block a wider range of UV rays.
However, doing so meant carefully suppressing the photoactivity of zinc oxide, which reacts with sunlight in a way that compromises the water repellant nature of the nanorods. So they coated the nanorods with with a silica shell that not only effectively blocks the photoactivity of zinc oxide, but helps it retain hydrophobicity.
The scientists believe this technology will be useful in the surface modification of cotton textiles, creating durable, multifunctional fabrics with enhanced superhydrophobic and UV-ray blocking properties.
What would you like built into your cotton clothes? Any brilliant ideas cotton researchers should be working on?