Catalytic clothing cleans pollutants from the air using a photocatalyst which gets its energy from light. The pollutants mostly come from industry, power plants and motor vehicles and kill thousands of people in the United States each year.
As light shines on the photocatalyst, the electrons become rearranged and more active, react with the water in the air and break it down into two radicals, extremely reactive molecules. Then the molecules react with the pollutants and break them down into non-harmful chemicals.
Some of the pollutants that attach to the clothing without breaking down are washed off during laundering. One piece of clothing only takes out a small amount of pollutants, so it will be necessary for a large number of people to participate in wearing these clothes to effectively clean the air. An estimate is that it requires 30 people wearing them walking past every square 10.8 square feet of pavement in a city like London, England.
The first type of material that it was tested on was cotton in Herself and Field of Jeans where titanium dioxide (TiO2), like that used in sunscreen products was sprayed on the garments. The Herself dress fabric was coated with titania loaded cement. It does not absorb anything into the dress itself but the tiny nanoparticles are a photocatalyst that on the surface oxidize nitrous oxide into soluble nitrate and volatile organics into soap and fatty acids. It has to have light and oxygen to work, but the light does not have to be sunlight. Artificial light will work.
Particles leaving the washing machine end up in waste water systems. This TiO2 will be harmless because it is too dark and oxygen content is too low for there to be much further catalytic activity.
Artist/designer Helen Storey at The London College of Fashion and chemist Tony Ryan came up with the idea. View the Catalytic Clothing website for more details and check out their Facebook page. View the catalog of clothing manufacturers for the January 2014 collection and where to buy the clothes. Actually clean the air by wearing these clothes.