Washing clothes is boring; being outside in the sun is fun. So this new kind of fabric, which uses light to degrade the organic compounds that make up your filth, can't be turned into clothes fast enough. Developed by researchers from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology at the University in Melbourne, Australia, the fabric contains nanostructures made from copper and silver. Unlike the anti-odour silver nanoparticles you might have been promised would keep your socks smelling fresh, these structures are actually grown directly into the cotton textiles that researchers have been experimenting with. Then they're fixed in place by a dunk in several fixative solutions.
When sunlight hits the metallic structures, high-energy electrons are released which can break down organic molecules. Experiments showed that deliberately placed stains disappeared within around six minutes. The research is published in Advanced Materials Interfaces.
However, the researchers admit that the fabric still can't remove the kinds of stains that most of us might be interested in, like tomato sauce and red wine, from its surface. If they can crack that problem, however, our washing machines may get a little less use, because the team reckons the technique is easy to scale up for use at an industrial scale.