Textiles have been the subject of research into functionalization for many years, especially also to repel bacteria and viruses. Since the development of nanotechnological processes, there have been many attempts to incorporate UV protection with nano-titanium dioxide, or to provide textiles with anti-bacterial properties with nanosilver (see cross-sectional text “Nanoparticles in Textiles”). But nanosilver has come under discussion because the particles are washed out of the textile after a few washing processes and the function is thus weakened or lost, but also the resource silver is relatively rare and the environment is polluted with the washed-out silver.
There is a recent study that uses a completely different element to functionalize cotton fibres and make them permanently anti-viral and anti-bacterial: copper! The process of functionalization is very sustainable because the solutions/lyes can be reused and only the copper itself has to be added for a new run. However, the amount of copper is relatively small, and the tests of the study showed that the functionalization is maintained even after up to 1000 washings, whereas the textile made of cotton reached its end of life after only 200 washings.
The process of functionalization is simple and upscalable, the distribution of copper ions in the fabric is very uniform (no particulate deposition, but ionic bonds). Tests with various viruses and bacteria have shown that this tissue is very efficient in killing these pathogens. Even mechanical stresses, such as crumpling or folding, do not reduce the lasting effect. The blue coloration by the copper has the additional advantage that especially for clinical staff the clothes do not have to be dyed separately, which also contributes to the sustainability of the product. Copper is much cheaper than silver, which makes it possible to provide certain textiles with simple, cost-saving, effective and long-lasting anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties without harming the environment.
Qian, J.; Dong, Q.; Chun, K.; Zhu, D.; Zhang, X.; Mao, Y.; Culver, J.N.; Tai, S.; German, J.R.; Dean, D.P., et al. Highly stable, antiviral, antibacterial cotton textiles via molecular engineering. Nat Nanotechnol 2022.
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