We all know people whose jeans could be qualified as air pollutants. They usually sit next to you on the bus. But a laundry additive called Catclo, developed by chemist Tony Ryan and designer Helen Storey, could let you counteract that dude’s ripe Levi’s by turning your jeans into air-purifying superclothes.
Clothing that’s been treated with Catclo neutralizes nitrogen oxide, an air pollutant that causes asthma and other ill effects. Catclo coats clothing fibers with titanium nanoparticles, which get excited and react with oxygen in the air when exposed to light. Oxygen molecules are made of two oxygen atoms, but the reaction with Catclo splits those atoms apart, leaving oxygen atoms free to link up with water molecules and produce peroxide. That does the same thing to air pollution that it does to your hair — it bleaches it. And that, say Catclo’s creators, neutralizes pollution’s potential harm.
Of course, it does mean that your clothing is essentially spewing out a fine mist of bleach. But Ryan and Storey say that tests show the peroxide from Catclo-treated clothing doesn’t cause skin irritation or other problems. And they say that if half the people in the U.K. washed their jeans in a detergent containing Catclo, or bought jeans that had been permanently imbued with the stuff, they could get the country below air-quality thresholds without further interventions.
This basically seems too good to be true — a chemical that turns your clothes into anti-chemical clothes? Are we sure this was developed by a Sheffield University chemistry professor, and not a Hogwarts potions master? Apparently the U.K. universities minister, David Willetts, has asked to have his jeans catalyzed, but then again we’ve seen how much politicians know about science. But if it works, it’ll do a hell of a lot more good than most people’s jeans. Yeah, guy on the bus, I’m looking at you.