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The brainchild of artist and designer, Helen Storey and chemist Tony Ryan – Catalytic Clothing is a new initiative that sees a series of cultural and art interventions bringing future technology and science in fashion into the public domain through building a pioneering air-purifying function into the clothes we wear all day every day. Being the denim lovers and experts that we are here, we focus on The Field of Jeans whereby denim can be used as a catalytic surface to purify air, employing existing technology in a new way…

Professor Helen Storey MBE wearing a Vivenne Westwood gown imbued with Catalytic Clothing technology and Professor Tony Ryan OBE, also wearing a Catalytic Clothing treated kilt.

The catalytic jeans exhibited below show the findings of Tony Ryan and Helen Storey, who discovered that when denim is covered with tiny nano-particles of titanium dioxide, it reacts with air and light to break down harmful emissions in the air; working in the same way as catalytic converters in cars.   Pollutants most often produced by traffic and factories, such as Nitrogen Oxide are then neutralised and simply washed away when the garment is laundered. In 2004, Professor Storey “re-discovered science” and had a meeting of minds with Professor Ryan, from Sheffield University. The pair started working on a green science and fashion collaboration called Wonderland, which later developed into Catalytic Clothing. Studies proved 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 discovered that the said particles gripped onto fibres in the material with even greater effect when the fabric moved whilst being worn.   This is because titanium oxide needs light and airflow to catalyse and turn noxious gases into harmless, water-soluble nitrates. Professor Storey said: “It seemed to be particularly effective on denim jeans and then we realised there were more denim jeans on the planet than people.  So even if we could buy generic ambien only get it to work on denim we could achieve quite a lot in terms of what the technology could do for the world.” Tony and I walk around in our air-purifying jeans – not purifying very much based on its need to be at scale – but I wear mine in the hope that I can infinitesimally improve our air quality. Tony says he wears his so that he can fart all day and no one will know!” , laughs Storey. Catalytic Clothing has now partnered with Ecover,  since studies show that the Nano-titania materials in self cleaning windows, along with oxygen, react with dirt to create a soap-like product. “Oxidized dirt is soap, and when it reacts, the windows wash themselves,”  Professor Ryan said. The technology has also been widely used in architecture. There is a church in Rome, and another in Madrid, that are self-cleaning churches.  “They stay very very white because of the action of the photocatalyst, which effectively re-bleaches the surface of the church over and over.”

Could this mean that by wearing one of our favourite daily wardrobe staples, jeans of the future could help to clean the dirty air around us, just by walking around? In theory, it does indeed  – so not only can we don our favourite pair of curve huggers, but 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?  It could also mean every time we wash our jeans, we’re helping to purify the air.  Genius.  I love it when fashion shows its just as smart as it is sexy. Catalytic Clothing’s Field of Jeans will be exhibited at the Manchester Science Festival, 27 Oct to 4 Nov, manchestersciencefestival.com

Images from The Helen Storey Foundation on Flickr which you can view here.

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