Gross people, your time has come. A new nanotech-enhanced fabric cleans itself with light, because washing machines are for suckers and should go the way of the payphone.
Researchers from Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology developed a cheap method for growing copper and silver nanostructures that can degrade organic matter when exposed to light.
The idea: If the particles can be incorporated into textiles en masse, the schmutz you got on your favorite pair of nanoparticle-laced pants will get broken up and brushed away when exposed to light.
In the RMIT University experiment, it took about 30 minutes for the nanostructures to attach to textiles after dipping them in solution. When the nanostructures were hit with light, they created "hot electrons" that released enough energy to rip into grime. For some of the materials tested, it took less than 6 minutes under light for the laced fabrics to clean themselves.
"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, lead on the study, said in a press release. "There's more work to do to 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."
Sure, getting tomato sauce off your shirt is cool, but let's take this a step further. Hospitals could lace their sheets and hospital gowns with self-cleaning nanostructures, keeping bacteria from traversing beds like a microbial bar crawl. It could be the answer to keeping hospitals from giving you viruses you didn't have going in.