No 226 Posted by fw, July 21, 2011
As part of a dynamic launch campaign for Catalytic Clothing, which its inventors claim to “clean the air we breathe”, an exclusive video starring supermodel Erin O’Connor with soundtrack by Radiohead performing their hit song, Nude, is already going viral with millions of views. Watch it right here —
Future Fashion Pioneers discover a way for clothing to purify air. That’s the title of a June 15, 2011 news release from the Media Centr, University of Sheffield. Who would have thunk it — a fashion designer among the ranks of activists fighting air pollution?
Here’s an essential part of the Media Centre’s account of the story —
A unique collaboration between the worlds of fashion and science, led by the University of Sheffield and London College of Fashion, has seen pioneers explore how clothing and textiles can purify the air we breathe.
The venture, entitled Catalytic Clothing, is asking the public to join the campaign for clean air; giving them the opportunity, at this early stage, to shape the technology that has the potential to transform our lives.
Employing existing technology in a new way, Catalytic Clothing seeks to explore how clothing and textiles can be used as a catalytic surface to purify the air. An exclusive film about the project starring Erin O’Connor with soundtrack by Radiohead is already going viral.
The project is the creation of unlikely collaborators Professor Helen Storey MBE, a practising artist and designer at London College of Fashion, and Professor Tony Ryan OBE, a scientist at the University of Sheffield. It is hoped the fusion of fashion and science will produce extraordinary results.
With the shared purpose of tackling some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems and the desire to improve the quality of our lives and those of future generations, the radical idea for Catalytic Clothing emerged.
Professor Tony Ryan OBE [Order of the British Empire], Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Science, University of Sheffield, commented: “Catalytic Clothing is a beautiful manifestation of a deeply technical process. We will engage the public in formulating its nature and application allowing us to develop something that is both user-friendly and technically excellent.“
Professor Helen Storey MBE [Member of the Order of the British Empire] added: “Catalytic Clothing is the most challenging, globally relevant project I have ever attempted. Behind almost all human advancement lies a science. Through my work, I try to share and involve the public with these possibilities.”
The need for this campaign has never been so vital and so apparent. In parallel with many countries around the world levels of air pollution in the UK have reached dangerously high levels. National estimates suggest air quality is a contributory factor in approximately 50,000 premature deaths. Whilst much is being done to tackle air quality at source, it was clear a radical solution was needed and Catalytic Clothing was born.
Project partner ECOVER, who seek to contribute to the process of creating economic, ecological and social change commented: “ECOVER is extremely excited about the potential of Catalytic Clothing to contribute to a more sustainable future. The idea that we could utilise our clothing to reduce air borne pollution is astonishing which is why we are excited about joining this campaign and seeing how the public respond to this radical idea.“
ECOVER, who are the main sponsors of the Catalytic Clothing cultural campaign, are one of the world´s leading suppliers of green and sustainable cleaning products. All of their products are made with fully renewable plant-based ingredients and produced using a totally biochemical process. Ecover has been recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for their outstanding practical achievements for the protection and improvement of our environment.
In it’s coverage,The Ecologist magazine’s story, Ethical fashion takes a new direction with catalytic clothes that purify polluted air, included a Q&A with the project’s researchers describing how it works —
What is the science behind Catalytic Clothing? Catalytic Clothing harnesses the power of a photocatalyst to break down air borne pollutants. A catalyst is a term used to describe something that makes a reaction proceed at a greater rate but isn’t actually consumed during that reaction. A photocatalyst gains the energy it needs to be active from light.
How are the pollutants broken down? When the light shines on the photocatalyst, the electrons in the material are rearranged and they become more reactive. These electrons are then able to react with the water in the air and break it apart into 2 radicals. A radical is an extremely reactive molecule. These radicals then react with the pollutants and cause them to break down into non-harmful chemicals.
What happens to the pollutants after they’ve been broken down? The Catalytic Clothing technology is designed to breakdown the pollutants straight away. However, some pollutants may become attached without being broken down. In this case, the pollutants will be washed off during subsequent laundering. This actually already happens with normal clothing.
Is this technology used in any other products? Photocatalysts have been incorporated into several commercially available products that possess de-polluting properties. These products include paints, cements and paving stones.
How is the technology delivered to the surface of the clothing? The photocatalyst is delivered to the surface of the clothing during the traditional laundry procedure as an additive within a standard product such as a fabric conditioner. The active agent is packaged within a shell that is attracted towards, and subsequently binds to, the surface of the clothing during the washing cycle.
Why do we need mass participation to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution? Although any garment that is treated with the product becomes active, a single garment is only able to remove a small proportion of the air borne pollutants. Therefore, a large number of individuals, all acting together, is required to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution.
How many people would need to participate to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution? An estimate of the required level of uptake for the Catalytic Clothing indicates that a significant reduction in the level of air borne pollutants in a large city such as London could be achieved if, for every metre of pavement width, 30 people wearing Catalytic Clothes walked past each minute.
Would someone wearing Catalytic Clothing be at a greater risk of exposure to pollutants? No. The Catalytic Clothing technology won’t actively attract any pollutants. Instead, it will break down anything that comes within very close proximity of the photocatalyst’s surface.
How would society benefit if Catalytic Clothing was widely introduced? Exposure to air borne pollutants presents a risk to human health and also has a detrimental effect on ecosystems and vegetation. Air pollution is currently estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7-8 months. The widespread introduction of Catalytic Clothing would dramatically reduce the level of air borne pollutants, thereby improving the quality of life for all members of society.