Nanodiamonds cut through dirt to bring back 'bling' to low-temperature laundry

June 26, 2012, University of Warwick

Nanodiamonds, pieces of carbon less than ten-thousandths the diameter of a human hair, have been found to help loosen crystallized fat from surfaces in a project led by research chemists at the University of Warwick that transforms the ability of washing powders to shift dirt in eco friendly low temperature laundry cycles.

These new findings tackle a problem that forces consumers to wash some of their at between 60 and 90 degrees centigrade more than 80 times a year. Even with modern biological washing powders, some fats and dirt cannot be removed at the lower temperatures many prefer to use for their weekly wash.

A desire to reduce the significant energy burden of regular high temperature washes, and understand the behaviour of these , brought University of Warwick scientists and colleagues at Aston University together in a project funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and P&G plc.

This "Cold Water Cleaning Initiative" funded a group of chemists, physicists and engineers led by Dr Andrew Marsh in the University of Warwick's Department of Chemistry to explore how new forms of carbon might work together with detergents in everyday household products.

Dr Andrew Marsh said:

"We found that the 5 nanometre diamonds changed the way detergents behaved at 25 degrees centigrade, doubling the amount of removed when using one particular commercial detergent molecule. Even at temperatures as low as 15 degrees centigrade, otherwise hard-to-remove fat could be solubilised from a test surface. The physical and chemical insight already gained paves the way for future research to explore how this unique behaviour might be exploited in other ways."

The research is published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Explore further: Advance could mean stain-busting super scrub brushes and other new laundry products

More information: Nanodiamond Promotes Surfactant-Mediated Triglyceride Removal from a Hydrophobic Surface at or below Room Temperature Xianjin Cui, Xianping Liu, Andrew S. Tatton, Steven P. Brown, Haitao Ye, and Andrew Marsh ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 2012, doi:10.1021/am300560z

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3 / 5 (2) Jun 26, 2012
Great. Now test these nanodiamonds to make sure they are not health hazards. I mention this because the 5 nanometer size of these diamonds is roughly the width of the smallest asbestos fibers that make their way into human lungs. The diamonds are also likely to share another property with asbestos, namely being very durable and resistant to being broken down by the immune system.
not rated yet Jun 26, 2012
diamonds -- carbon crystals -- by definition cannot be broken down by the feeble human immune system -- or most acids btw
not rated yet Jun 26, 2012
"...lower temperatures many prefer to use for their weekly wash."

And where you run out of towels by the second day after the wash due to there being one or more women in the household, what do you do while waiting for the next weekly wash? ;P
not rated yet Jun 26, 2012
what fabrics and what effects?
not rated yet Jun 27, 2012
I also agree that it would be important to know how these will affect the environment after they are flushed to waste water and later to oceans. CO2 pollution made when using warm water wash is bad, but at least we know that it eventually will get recycled by plants.
not rated yet Jun 29, 2012
The trick is not to break fats up, but change the nature of the bond that they use to hold onto fabrics. Consider Charlie's Soap.

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