New cotton fabric stays waterproof through 250 washes

October 28, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
New waterproof cotton fabric stays waterproof through 250 washes
Image credit: Advanced Materials, DOI:10.1002/adma.201002614

( -- Scientists in Shanghai in China, have developed a waterproof cotton fabric that remains waterproof after going through a domestic wash at least 250 times.

Most waterproofed fabrics lose their super-hydrophobic properties after only one or two washes, and they become uncomfortable to wear because they do not allow air flow through the material. In contrast, the new fabric, which according to the researchers looks almost identical to ordinary cotton fabric, is completely impermeable and breathable, and retains its properties even after being laundered many times.

The new fabric was made by grafting a commercially available fluorinated acrylate monomer (1H,1H,2H,2H-nonafluorohexyl-1-acrylate) onto bundles of cotton fibers which were irradiated with to induce . In this process the cotton forms covalent bonds with the , and it is not simply coated. The polymer prevents water adhering to the cotton surface and the water instead forms that roll off the fabric, taking any dust or surface dirt with them.

Researcher Jingye Li, from the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said grafting the polymer onto the bundles of fibers meant the small holes between the cotton bundles are retained in the fabric. This enables the material to remain breathable and comfortable to wear even after multiple washings. He also said its super-hydrophobic nature made the fabric feel smoother than normal cotton.

Li and colleagues tested the fabric by subjecting it to 50 accelerated launderings in a domestic with different detergents, and with 50 stainless steel balls to simulate the repeated washing. The tests showed the fabric retained its super-hydrophobic properties even after the equivalent of 250 domestic or commercial washes at 40ºC.

The paper is published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Explore further: A fabric with green sheen: Fast-growing bamboo offers more eco-friendly cloth

More information: Laundering Durability of Superhydrophobic Cotton Fabric, Bo Deng et al., Advanced Materials, DOI:10.1002/adma.201002614

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5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2010
Fluorine is one of the most toxic elements to humans. Has anyone considered how much "fluorinated acrylate monomer" might be absorbed through the skin of a person wearing this fabric? What about infiltration to the water supply, where we already know there are many chemicals and drugs that are not filtered out by municipal treatment. I'm betting these issues have not been considered, let alone tested. Let's not "field test" with all of us as subjects, please.
5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2010
leave it to the chinese to take cotton fiber hit it with gamma radiation and say .. here wear this, I'd put in on my kids cause there always spilling stuff on themselves and playing in mud.

;-) its a cheap joke .. but hopefully good science. But notice they used a cold/warm water wash... so this doesn't necessarily work for your whites.


I agree but ( I am no chemisty major ) wouldn't putting Fluorine in a monomer chain trap it there with a covalent bond?? like the chain might break but that fluorine bond is there to stay requiring large amounts of energy to free it so it could react to say skin. And the hydrophobic property of the monomer is actually helping this to stay unreactive??

I am asking -- please post comments
3 / 5 (2) Oct 28, 2010
I actually agree with you both...
I'd wonder what they do for each "unit" of 'flourinated acrylate monomer' that didn't get hit with gamma rays. Could they "wash them off"? Or could the unbonded materials just kinda hang out in between the openings during washings?
5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2010
The real trick was finding a laundromat in China to test this. Unfortunately, I'm no chemist so I can't even begin to cast a reasonable opinion on this. However, I do know that simple modifications to chemical structures turns them from poison to harmless. Maybe the procedure radically changes the toxic properties?
1 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2010
True for Sodium Chloride, that's for sure. From explosive metal and corrosive acid to salt...

@chemistrycoach any light to shed on this?
1 / 5 (16) Oct 28, 2010
Fluorine is one of the most toxic elements to humans.
Fluorides are toxic as ions, but the surface of your teeth is actually build from fluoride salt Ca5(PO4)3F.
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 29, 2010
Yeah --- real toxic. That's why billions die every year from floride in tooth paste and the water supply. Not to mention all the deaths from teflon frying pans, teflon lubricants, and the such. Much to be afraid of here, but it isn't florinated compounds. Millions really do die every year from Hydrogen Hydroxide exposure.
not rated yet Oct 29, 2010
in five years you will be buying shirts from LL Bean made from this and wondering why we-the USA-did not think of it first.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2010
hey me, that exact same number of people die from Di-Hydrogen Oxide exposure. Coincidence?

Also just wondering, if it was SO bad, why would they start making flourinated poland spring for kids? It's because people realized, wait kids aren't drinking flourinated tap water anymore, we better cover our asses before their teeth rot out...
1 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2010
Oh, and scidog, I kinda doubt too much Gamma Ray Bursting gets tested on clothing in the US. I don't think a company here would get a green light on that. Bush stomped on stem cell research, so I can't really see Gamma Rays being highly accessible.

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