Add diamonds for cleaner, greener laundry

U. WARWICK (UK) — Nanodiamonds help loosen crystallized fat from surfaces, a finding that may improve the ability of detergents to remove dirt in eco-friendly low-temperature laundry cycles.

The new research, published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, tackles a problem that forces consumers to wash some of their laundry at between 60 and 90 degrees Celsius more than 80 times a year.


Even with modern biological washing powders, some fats and dirt can’t be removed at the lower temperatures many prefer to use for their weekly load of laundry.

A desire to reduce the significant energy burden of regular high-temperature washes, and understand the behavior of these new materials, brought University of Warwick scientists and colleagues at Aston University together in a project funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and P&G plc.

The “Cold Water Cleaning Initiative” funded a group of chemists, physicists, and engineers led by Andrew Marsh in the University of Warwick’s Department of Chemistry to explore how new forms of carbon might work together with detergents in everyday household products.

“We found that the 5 nanometer diamonds changed the way detergents behaved at 25 degrees centigrade, doubling the amount of fat removed when using one particular commercial detergent molecule,” Marsh says.

Nanodiamonds are pieces of carbon less than ten-thousandths the diameter of a human hair.

“Even at temperatures as low as 15 degrees centigrade, otherwise hard-to-remove fat could be solubilized from a test surface. The physical and chemical insight already gained paves the way for future research to explore how this unique behavior might be exploited in other ways.”

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