Tiny diamonds could transform low-temperature laundry

Sensemaking / Tiny diamonds could transform low-temperature laundry

Microscopic diamonds could hold the key to tackling tough stains at low temperatures, scientists at Proctor and Gamble believe.

By Roger East / 02 Nov 2012

Microscopic diamonds could hold the key to tackling tough stains at low temperatures, scientists at Proctor and Gamble believe.

The cool wash that gets dirty clothes really clean just might rely on diamonds, at the nanoscale. The energy savings could be colossal, if the latest research lives up to its early promise. 

Whatever we’re told about today’s laundry products, enough stubborn dirt clings on at 30˚C to push millions of us into cranking up the heat on our weekly wash. Sometimes, admittedly, that’s just a bad habit, rather than a hard calculation. But a UK research team has discovered a possible way to break the cycle. Twice as much crystallised fat, they’ve found, can be loosened from fabrics at 25˚C by the simple addition of tiny diamonds.

Really tiny, that is. Nanodiamonds, five nanometres across. These could stand in their thousands on a single human hair. And they seem to be so effective, that they’d even work in water as cool as a mountain stream. What else they can do, remains to be seen.

Procter and Gamble are co-financing the research in this so-called Cold Water Cleaning Initiative, which is being led by Andrew Marsh at Warwick University. “Even at temperatures as low as 15˚C, otherwise hard-to-remove fat could be solubilised from a test surface”, thanks to the nanodiamonds, explains Marsh.

The findings are still a long way from commercialisation, but the manufacturers behind Daz and Ariel are at the ready. – Roger East

Photo: istockphoto/thinkstock

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