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  • Sci. & Tech.
    New fabric will kill germs

    (GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE)

    By Alok Jha

    Ever felt your clothes could be doing more for you? Help may be at hand from a collaboration between American scientists and designers, whose range of futuristic clothes use nanotechnology to destroy viruses such as cold and flu bugs, and scrub pollutants from the air.

    Juan Hinestroza, a chemical engineer at Cornell University, New York, has been called in by the US military to brief them on his idea. Clothes coated in nanoparticles that could neutralise dangerous biological and chemical agents would prove useful.

    The clothes are a result of collaboration between Dr Hinestroza and Olivia Ong, a designer who wanted to incorporate nanoparticles into her fashion line. She had been inspired by living in the smog of Los Angeles. "There's a lot of pollution so I thought we could use technology and clothing to prevent it," she said.

    Dr Hinestroza designed a "personal air purification system" to incorporate particles of metal, such as silver, that are thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. They cling to the clothes and can kill specific viruses or bacteria.

    Some of the clothes are also coated with nanoparticles that can reflect specific wavelengths of light, producing garments of shimmering colours. Now that he has the technique perfected, Dr Hinestroza is developing ways to move the nanoparticles around on the fabric, rearranging them so that he can change colours.

    "So you could go to the office with a blue shirt, and you have a party at night and you don't want to go home. You supply an electric field [thus moving the particles] and your shirt becomes black."

    The clothing is unlikely to find a mass retail market just yet though. A square yard of the material costs $10,000.


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