“Ultimate” UV and Water Protection Textiles

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Scientists at the not-suspiciously-named-at-all Northeast Normal University in China have come up with a new textile that’s remarkably resistant to the horrors of both water and sunlight.

In fact, it offers more than double the amount of UV protection required to attain “ultimate” UV protection status.

Essentially, the scientists coated the cotton fabric base with zinc oxide nanorods as well as zinc oxide crystallites, which Discoverydescribes as “dumbbell-shaped.” That treated material was found to have a UV Protection Factor (UPF) rating of a whopping 101.15. To give you an idea of what that number means, UPF has a few different levels of UV protection. UPF 15-24 is “good,” UPF 25-39 is “very good,” and so on. The highest level is UPF 50 and up, which is considered “ultimate UV protection”–it lets in less than two percent of UV rays. A UPF of 101.15 lets in less than a single percent, which would qualify for “excessive” protection if that level existed.

The material is also superhydrophobic, that property coming from a coating on top of the zinc oxide nanorods made of silica. It seems the level of hydrophobia was enhanced by the combination of the silica and zinc oxide nanorods. The scientists are optimistic that this kind of fabric modification could become widespread–and I know a certain person’s oddly hydrophilic windbreaker that could benefit from a coating. (The person is me.) With other high-tech textiles like power-harvesting uniforms and cotton candy-inspired fabrics gaining steam, your clothes might become some of your most impressive technological gear.


Cotton textile was coated with ZnO@SiO(2) nanorods in order to obtain superhydrophobic and ultraviolet (UV)-blocking properties. The coating process was conducted in mild conditions, which involved the low-temperature preparation of ZnO seeds, hydrothermal growth of ZnO nanorods, bioinspired layer-by-layer deposition of a SiO(2) shell on the surface of ZnO nanorods, and hydrophobic modification of ZnO@SiO(2) nanorods with octadecyltrimethoxysilane. Despite the highly curved morphology of cotton fibers, the ZnO@SiO(2) nanorods coated the textile densely and uniformly. The treated cotton textile was found to have a large UV protection factor (UPF = 101.51) together with UV-durable superhydrophobicity, as determined by contact-angle measurement under long-term UV irradiation. The good UV-blocking property can be ascribed to the high UV absorbance and scattering properties of ZnO nanorods, and the UV-durable superhydrophobicity is a result of suppression of the photoactivity of ZnO nanorods by a SiO(2) shell.

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