Swedish researchers are developing clothes that would be able to absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in order to slow down climate change.
The team from the University of Borås, Sweden, and private company Smart Textiles, believes that in future it would be possible to virtually make garments from air by creating textile fibres from methane filtered out from the ambient atmosphere.
"If we succeed, the technique has the potential to be a game changer within the textile industry", said Lena-Marie Jensen, who coordinates the project, dubbed ‘From Air’.
The technique relies on filtering methane from the air and binding it into the textiles. The method could have a double positive effect – it would not only directly decrease the concentrations of methane in the atmosphere (which will only be noticeable if enough people are wearing the methane-binding clothes), it would also decrease the need for petroleum-based products that are frequently used in textiles.
"Today, half of all textile fibres are synthetic, e.g. polyester, produced from fossil-based raw materials," Jensen explained.
"If we can replace these with fibres that bind greenhouse gases, we get a double environmental effect by both reducing the fossil fuel use, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
The team is now developing a prototype to prove that the idea is realistic.
Smart Textiles have previously developed garments for health and environment monitoring, as well as materials that can be used to create interactive artworks or purify water.
Methane, which the researchers want to target, is a greenhouse gas about 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Since pre-industrial times, its concentration in the atmosphere has increased by about 150 per cent.
Its potency makes methane a dreaded climate-warming agent, although it makes up only 0.00017 per cent of the Earth’s atmosphere, while carbon dioxide makes up 0.0360 per cent.
Research teams across the globe are developing sorbent materials that would enable extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere either for further use or to be safely stored.
A team from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, has recently developed a new type of sorbent that offers better capacity to capture carbon dioxide and keep it locked. The solid material is made of porous nanomaterial fibrous nanosilica.