Self-cleaning cloth breaks down chemicals

UC DAVIS (US) — A new self-cleaning fabric made from cotton can kill bacteria and break down toxic chemicals such as pesticide residues when exposed to light.

“The new fabric has potential applications in biological and chemical protective clothing for health care, food processing, and farmworkers, as well as military personnel,” says Ning Liu, who conducted the work as a doctoral student at the University of California, Davis.

A compound incorporated into the new self-cleaning fabric bonds to the cellulose, making it more resilient than other self-cleaning agents. (Credit: Andy Fell, UC Davis)


The Journal of Materials Chemistry recently published a paper describing the work.

Liu developed a method to incorporate a compound known as 2-anthraquinone carboxylic acid, or 2-AQC, into cotton fabrics. This chemical bonds strongly to the cellulose in cotton, making it difficult to wash off, unlike current self-cleaning agents.

Unlike some other experimental agents that have been applied to cotton, it does not affect the properties of the fabric.

When exposed to light, 2-AQC produces so-called reactive oxygen species, such as hydroxyl radicals and hydrogen peroxide, that kill bacteria and break down organic compounds such as pesticides and other toxins.

Although 2-AQC is more expensive than other compounds, the researchers say that cheaper equivalents are available.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Jastro Shields Graduate Research Fellowship from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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