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Reducing microplastics through less microfiber shedding

Swatches | April 21, 2023 | By:

Images taken by a scanning electron microscope show uncoated (top row) and coated (bottom row) nylon fabrics after nine washing cycles. Photo: Sudip Lahiri

The University of Toronto reports that a team of researchers there has designed a solution to reduce the quantity of microplastic fibers shed when washing synthetic fabrics. When synthetic fabrics are washed, the friction produces tiny tears that cause microplastic fibers to break off and make their way down laundry drains to enter waterways, where the particles can be difficult to remove and take decades or more to fully break down.

The researchers say that the solution could be a readily available silicon-based organic polymer coating found in many household products. Kevin Golovin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and his team have created a two-layer coating made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Experiments showed that this coating can significantly reduce microfiber shedding of nylon clothing after repeated laundering. The team has also expanded the research to look beyond nylon fabrics, including polyester and synthetic-fabric blends.  

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