By simply walking about in their favourite pair of Wranglers or Levis, jeans wearers could soon help clean the dirty air around them.
That's because University of Sheffield scientist Tony Ryan and London College of Fashion artist and designer Helen Storey have come up with a laundry additive called Catalytic Clothing (CatClo), which when mixed in with normal detergent turns jeans and other clothes into magnets for some of our worst air pollutants including, Nitrogen oxide (NO2).
AdvertisementThe jeans then works the same way as catalytic converters in cars, the Independent reported.
The idea of catalytic jeans came to Chemist Professor Ryan and the fashion designer Professor Storey after they discovered that when denim is covered with tiny particles of a mineral called titanium dioxide, it reacts with air and light to break down harmful emissions in the air.
Nitrogen oxide (NO2) pollutants - produced mainly by traffic and factories - are then neutralised and simply washed away when the garment is laundered, they claimed.
With toxic emissions killing an estimated 1.3 million people a year worldwide, the resulting improvement in air quality could significantly reduce deaths and respiratory illnesses such as asthma, the designers believed.
In 2004, the pair started working on a green science and fashion collaboration called Wonderland, which developed into Catalytic Clothing. Their eureka moment came when they realised that microscopic particles of titanium oxide, which is contained in glass, paving stones and sun cream, worked as a pollution-buster when sprayed on clothes.
They found that the particles were able to grip on to the millions of fibres in the material and had a greater effect due to the constant movement of the fabric while being worn. This is because titanium oxide needs light and airflow to catalyse and turn noxious gases into harmless, water-soluble nitrates.
"It seemed to be particularly effective on denim jeans and then we realised there were more denim jeans on the planet than people," the paper quoted Professor Storey as saying.
"So even if we could only get it to work on denim we could achieve quite a lot in terms of what the technology could do for the world," she added.
The pair is now attempting to turn their idea into a mass-market product. They have been working with the detergent firm Ecover to produce the laundry additive called CatClo that could be put in washing powder or fabric conditioner.
"If thousands of people used the additive, the result would be a significant improvement in air quality. In Sheffield, for instance, if everyone washed their clothes in the additive, there would be no more pollution caused by nitrogen oxides," Professor Ryan said.
He added that the product is currently undergoing safety tests, but so far there is no evidence it poses a threat to human skin or water supplies.
The professors hope that CatClo will be on sale in the high street within the next two years.