Scientists at the not-suspiciously-named-at-all Northeast Normal University in China have come up with a new textile that's remarkably resistant to the horrors of both water and sunlight. In fact, it offers more than double the amount of UV protection required to attain "ultimate" UV protection status.
Essentially, the scientists coated the cotton fabric base with zinc oxide nanorods as well as zinc oxide crystallites, which Discovery describes as "dumbbell-shaped." That treated material was found to have a UV Protection Factor (UPF) rating of a whopping 101.15. To give you an idea of what that number means, UPF has a few different levels of UV protection. UPF 15-24 is "good," UPF 25-39 is "very good," and so on. The highest level is UPF 50 and up, which is considered "ultimate UV protection"--it lets in less than two percent of UV rays. A UPF of 101.15 lets in less than a single percent, which would qualify for "excessive" protection if that level existed.
The material is also superhydrophobic, that property coming from a coating on top of the zinc oxide nanorods made of silica. It seems the level of hydrophobia was enhanced by the combination of the silica and zinc oxide nanorods. The scientists are optimistic that this kind of fabric modification could become widespread--and I know a certain person's oddly hydrophilic windbreaker that could benefit from a coating. (The person is me.) With other high-tech textiles like power-harvesting uniforms and cotton candy-inspired fabrics gaining steam, your clothes might become some of your most impressive technological gear.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.