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47 Maple St Suite 204
Burlington, VT, 05401
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We are a digital surface design company at the intersection of art & science that uses microscopic images to create textile patterns and apply them to sustainable apparel made in the USA. 

Chemistry Drives "Catalytic Clothing"

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Chemistry Drives "Catalytic Clothing"

Kathleen Gudas

“I have come to understand that within the world of science is everything that we are and everything that is...and that within the arts---is how we experience our humanity."

 -Helen Storey

 

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a catalyst is an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action. This word is used in a variety of ways, from describing the functions of cellular mechanisms to delineating historical causality. It is, therefore, no surprise that an innovative collaboration between science and art would use “catalyst” as its all-encompassing title.

Catalytic Clothing (CatClo), the collective vision of artist Helen Storey and chemist Tony Ryan, works as a catalyst at both the micro and the macro levels in order to decrease air pollution. By utilizing nanotechnology, Ryan focused on the microscopic side of things and consequently came up with an ingenious plan that can transform a tiny chemical reaction into a large scale change in the quality of life. Addressing the issue of public engagement, Storey worked on how to market their product effectively in order to bring about mass adoption. As Ryan and Storey searched for a way to truly catalyze change, they came up with a simple solution: bring CatClo to laundry.

Field of Jeans exhibition in the Peace Gardens at Sheffield

Field of Jeans exhibition in the Peace Gardens at Sheffield

At this point, you’re probably asking: What is CatClo? CatClo is a laundry additive that uses solar energy to break down air pollutants. In the CatClo substance, there are little shells of photocatalysts that bind to the surface of clothing during the laundry washing cycle. When these photocatalysts are exposed to the sun, they will provoke a shift in the structure of the surface material’s electrons. The electrons will become reactive and in turn, will break down surrounding pollutants into non-harmful chemicals. In sum, CatClo will turn your “mom-jeans” into air-purifiers. Pretty cool, huh?

A micro look at CatClo via University of the Arts London.

As air-pollution grows to become an increasing threat to public and environmental health, Catalytic Clothing could be the much-needed solution. It is easy, cost-effective, and has the potential to “turn the public into an air-purifying altruistic community” (Scientific American). Despite the obvious benefits of CatClo, it faces resistance from the corporate world, especially from the laundry industry. Additionally, many people are concerned that the photocatalysts will attract the harmful chemicals to their body and clothing. In response to this concern, Storey insists that you will not become a “dirt magnet…[because] the reaction happens around you, not on you" (Scientific American).

Ryan and Storey with Herself, the first air-purifying dress.

Ryan and Storey with Herself, the first air-purifying dress.

Although Catalytic Clothing has not been released to the public yet, I would strongly advise you to consider the benefits of this “trendy solution to air-quality”(Scientific American). Not only will CatClo bring purpose to your clothing, it gives you the power to become a catalyst in your community, a figurehead for change.

Check out a short clip below on Catalytic Clothing. For the full video, go to http://www.catalytic-clothing.org/.