Science Briefs: Future may be bright for self-cleaning clothes

Close-up of the nanostructures grown on cotton textiles by RMIT University researchers. The image is magnified 150,000 times.
Close-up of the nanostructures grown on cotton textiles by RMIT University researchers. The image is magnified 150,000 times. RMIT University

Nano-nice! Self-cleaning clothes possible

A spot of sunshine is all it could take to get your washing done. Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a cheap and efficient new way to grow special nanostructures – which can degrade organic matter when exposed to light – directly onto textiles.

The work paves the way toward nano-enhanced textiles that can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply by being put under a light bulb or worn out in the sun.

The researchers worked with copper and silver-based nanostructures, which are known for their ability to absorb visible light. When the nanostructures are exposed to light, they receive an energy boost that creates “hot electrons” that release a burst of energy that enables the nanostructures to degrade organic matter.

The team grew nanostructures by dipping cotton textiles into a few solutions that resulting in the development of stable nanostructures within 30 minutes. When exposed to light, it took less than six minutes for some of the nano-enhanced textiles to spontaneously clean themselves.

The research is published in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces

Xbox Kinects could be used to assess respiratory illness

Xbox Kinects could be used in the future to assess the health of people with conditions such as cystic fibrosis. The Microsoft sensors are normally found in the hands of gamers (they’re motion-control sensors) rather than medics.

British researchers have developed a system that consists of four Kinect sensors capable of quickly creating a 3D image of a patient’s torso. This enables physicians to measure and assess how a chest wall moves. In tests it has proven to be as accurate as a patient breathing into a spirometer – the current method used – but providing additional information about the movement of the chest, which could help in identifying numerous respiratory problems.

Vipers not faster than other snakes

The lunging movements of rattlesnakes and other vipers have been described as “lightning fast” and the “fastest strike on the planet.” The G forces they employ to capture their food would be enough to cause even experienced jet pilots to black out.

But it turns out that vipers aren’t necessarily the fastest in the world. Nonvenomous snakes can move just as fast.

Snakes rely on their ultra-quick ability to strike in order to eat and to defend themselves. When necessary, they can hit a target in as little as 50 to 90 milliseconds. For the sake of comparison, a blink of an eye takes 202 milliseconds.

“It’s such a cheesy sentence but it’s literally true: They strike within a blink of an eye,” said David Penning, who studies functional morphology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

He and his colleagues tested the reflexes of 14 Texas rat snakes and snakes from two venomous species: 6 western cottonmouth vipers and 12 western diamond-backed rattlesnakes. The snakes were filmed with a high-speed video camera. It turns out that the harmless rat snakes struck just as fast as – if not faster – than the vipers across short distances.

Los Angeles Times