Category Archives: fashion

Cancer as a fashion statement at the University of British Columbia (Canada) and a Marimekko dress made of birch in Finland

The ‘Fashioning Cancer Project’ at the University of British Columbia (UBC) bears some resemblance to the types of outreach projects supported by the UK’s Wellcome Trust (for an example see my June 21, 2011 posting) where fashion designers are inspired by some aspect of science. Here’s more about the ‘Fashioning Cancer Project’ and its upcoming fashion show (on March 25, 2014). From the March 12, 2014 UBC news release (Note: Links have been removed),

A UBC costume design professor has created a collection of ball gowns inspired by microscopic photos of cancer cells and cellular systems to get people talking about the disease, beauty and body image.

The project aims to create alternative imagery for discussions of cancer, to complement existing examples such as the pink ribbon, which is an important symbol of cancer awareness, but may not accurately represent women’s experience with the disease.

“Many women who have battled cancer express a disconnect with the fashion imagery that commonly represents the disease,” says Jacqueline Firkins, an assistant professor in UBC’s Dept. of Theatre and Film, who designed the collection of 10 dresses and dubbed the work ‘Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty.’

Inspired by cellular images captured by researchers in the lab of UBC scientist Christian Naus, a Peter Wall Distinguished Scholar in Residence, the project seeks to create artistic imagery based on the disease itself.

“My hope is that somehow through fashion, I more closely tap into what a woman might be feeling about her body as she undergoes the disease, but simultaneously reflect a strength, beauty, and resilience,” says Firkins, who will use the collection to raise money for cancer research, patients and survivors.

“This will be an opportunity for people to share their thoughts about the gowns,” says Firkins. “Are they too pretty to reflect something as destructive as cancer? Do they encourage you to tell your own story? Do they evoke any emotions related to your own experience?”

Before giving you where and when, here are two images (a cell and a dress based on the cell),

Cell7_brain_cells_in_a_dish; Astrocytes from the brain growing in a culture dish. Green colour indicates the cytoskeleton of these cells, red colour shows specific membrance [sic] channels (gap junctions), blue colour indicates the cell nuclei (DNA). The ability to grow cells in a dish has contributed to our understand of the changes these cells undergo when they become channels. Photo credit: John Bechberger, MSc., Christian Naus, PhD.

Cell7_Mercedes_de_la_Zerda: Dress modeled by BFA Acting student Mercedes de la Zerda.Black organza cap sleeve w/ sheer top and multicolour organza diagonal trim. Photo credit: Tim Matheson

Cell7_Mercedes_de_la_Zerda: Dress modeled by BFA Acting student Mercedes de la Zerda.Black organza cap sleeve w/ sheer top and multicolour organza diagonal trim. Photo credit: Tim Matheson

Details about the show (from the UBC event description webpage where you can also find a slide show more pictures),

  • Event: Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty
  • Date: Tue. March 25, 2014 | Time: 12-1pm
  • Location: UBC’s Frederic Wood Theatre, 6354 Crescent Rd.
  • MAP:

On a more or less related note, Aalto University (Finland) has announced a dress made of birch cellulose fibre, from a March 13, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily,

The first garment made out of birch cellulose fibre using the Ioncell method is displayed at a fashion show in Finland on 13 March [2014]. The Ioncell method, which was developed by researchers at Aalto University, is an environmentally friendly alternative to cotton in textile production. The dress produced for Marimekko is a significant step forward in the development of fibre for industrial production.

Researchers were looking for new alternatives to cotton, because demand for textile fibres is expected to nearly double by 2030. The raw material for the Ioncell fibre is a birch-based pulp from Finnish pulp mills. Growing birch wood does not require artificial irrigation in its native habitat, for instance.

The Aalto University March 12, 2014 news release, which originated the news item, describes the new Ioncell fibre and its relationship with Finnish clothing company Marimekko,

The production method for Ioncell has been developed by Professor Herbert Sixta’s research group. The method is based on a liquid salt (ionic liquid) developed under the guidance of Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen which is a very efficient cellulose solvent. The fibres derived from it are carded and spun to yarns at the Textile University of Börås in Sweden.

‒ We made a breakthrough in the development of the method about a year ago. Progress has been rapid since then. [see my Oct. 3, 2013 posting for another Finnish team’s work with wood cellulose to create fabric]  Production of the fibre and the thread is still a cumbersome process, but we have managed to triple the amount of fibre that is produced in six months. The quality has also improved: the fibers are stronger and of more even quality, Professor Sixta says with satisfaction.

The surface of the ready textile has a dim glow and it is pleasing to the touch. According to Sixta, because of its strength, the strength properties of the Ioncell fibre are equal or even better than other pulp-based fibres on the market. The fibres are even stronger than cotton and viscose.

The Finnish textile and clothing design company Marimekko became inspired by the new fibre at an event organised by the Finnish Bioeconomy Cluster FIBIC, which coordinates bioeconomy research, and immediately got in touch with Professor Herbert Sixta at Aalto University.

‒ We monitor product development for materials closely in order to be able to offer our customers new and more ecological alternatives. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to join this Aalto University development project at such an early stage. Fibre made from birch pulp seems to be a promising material by virtue of its durability and other characteristics, and we hope that we will soon be able to utilise this new material in our collections, says Noora Niinikoski, Head of Fashion at Marimekko.

Here’s the birch cellulose dress,

Marimekko Birch Dress Courtesy: Aalto University

Let’s all have a fashionable day!

Mutant silkworms enter world of haute couture

Researchers in Japan have bioengineered silkworms which produce silk in fluorescent shades of red, orange, and green.

Wedding gown made from fluorescent silks, designed by Yumi Katsura, shown in white and UV light. (Iizuka et al., Advanced Functional Materials)

Wedding gown made from fluorescent silks, designed by Yumi Katsura, shown in white and UV light. (Iizuka et al., Advanced Functional Materials)

The dress gives you two looks for your wedding, one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Unfortunately, it’s not listed on Yumi Katsura’s website, so you may have to wait a while before you can purchase it.

You can read more about the mutant silkworms in a June 21, 2013 news item by Lin Edwards for,

Scientists in Japan have genetically engineered silkworms to create red, green or orange silks that glow under fluorescent lights.
… a research team led by Tetsuya Iizuka and Toshiki Tamura of the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Ibaraki, Japan, has genetically modified the silkworm by transplanting genes from organisms that produce fluorescent proteins into the silkworm genome at the site coding for the silk fiber protein fibroin. The genes they used to make the transgenic silkworms came from the Fungia concinna coral (orange), Discoma coral (red) or jellyfish (green).

There is also a June 20, 2013 story by Nadia Drake for Wired magazine which provides more information and images about the project in Japan (Note: Links have been removed),

Silkworms in a Japanese lab are busy spinning silks that glow in the dark. But these silkworms, unlike others that have been fed rainbow-colored dyes, don’t need any dietary interventions to spin in color: They’ve been genetically engineered to produce fluorescent skeins in shades of red, orange, and green.

Now, scientists have tweaked the silk production process and made it possible to turn these somewhat freakish threads into useable fabrics.

The resulting silks glow under fluorescent light, and are only ever-so-slightly weaker than silks that are normally used for fabrics, scientists reported June 12 in Advanced Functional Materials. Already, the glowing silks have been incorporated into everyday garments such as suits and ties, and Japanese wedding dress designer Yumi Katsura has designed and made gowns that glow in the dark.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the published research paper,

Colored Fluorescent Silk Made by Transgenic Silkworms by Tetsuya Iizuka, Hideki Sezutsu, Ken-ichiro Tatematsu, Isao Kobayashi, Naoyuki Yonemura, Keiro Uchino, Kenichi Nakajima, Katsura Kojima, Chiyuki Takabayashi, Hiroaki Machii, Katsushige Yamada2, Hiroyuki Kurihara, Tetsuo Asakura, Yasumoto Nakazawa, Atsushi Miyawaki, Satoshi Karasawa, Hatsumi Kobayashi, Junji Yamaguchi, Nobuo Kuwabara, Takashi Nakamura, Kei Yoshii, and Toshiki Tamura.
Article first published online: 12 JUN 2013 Adv. Funct. Mater.. doi: 10.1002/adfm.201300365

© 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

This paper is behind a paywall.

Golden milk—Swiss researchers have created a gold-milk hybrid material

The researchers didn’t start out by trying to develop a ‘gold-milk hybrid’ material; that came later, according to the June 18, 2013 news item on Nanowerk (Note: Links have been removed),

Raffaele Mezzenga, professor of food and soft materials, came up with the idea of “gold paper” a year ago. At the time, his group was working on an unusual hybrid material, a wafer-thin, paper-like mixture of graphene and protein fibres (see ETH Life report). The recipe is universally applicable and relatively simple: you mix fibroid objects with plate-like entities in a watery solution and filter the mixture with the aid of vacuum. The plates and fibres congregate and remain on the filter as a thin film.

As a result, Mezzenga set two of his team members, Chaoxu Li and Sreenath Bolisetty, the task of producing a kind of gold leaf out of protein fibres and gold plates (“Hybrid Nanocomposites of Gold Single-Crystal Platelets and Amyloid Fibrils with Tunable Fluorescence, Conductivity, and Sensing Properties”). First of all, the researchers had to make the fibres by stretching them naturally from milk globular proteins, the so-called beta-lactoglobulin, with the aid of heat and acid. Like all proteins, milk proteins are also composed of a chain of numerous individual amino acids that form complex compact structures under native conditions. Heat or chemicals break open the compact configuration, causing the chains to unravel.

The June 18, 2013 ETH Life news article [Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich] by Peter Rüegg. which originated the news item, describes what happens after the milk protein’s amino acid chains unravel,

Several of these milk protein fibres then organise themselves into thicker, helical fibres. The researchers added gold in the form of a salt to the acidic solution of the fibres. The protein fibres allow the gold to reduce into small plates with a diameter of one micrometre and a thickness of 100 nanometres. The gold grows as a so-called monocrystal and the gold ions form a crystal lattice completely devoid of any defects.

Gold plates and fibres then accumulate in layers. The thin film that remains after filtration is formed in much the same way as paper from cellulose. The novel hybrid material is very stable, but remarkably changes its physical and optical properties when it comes into contact with water.

Here’s an image of the ‘golden milk’,

The hybrid film on a filter (r.a.) and on glass (ETH logo). REM reveals the micro (upper left) and nano (bottom left) structure of this particular material. (Images: from Li, C., Adv. Mater. 2013) [downloaded from]

The hybrid film on a filter (r.a.) and on glass (ETH logo). REM reveals the micro (upper left) and nano (bottom left) structure of this particular material. (Images: from Li, C., Adv. Mater. 2013) [downloaded from]

The researchers have some ideas for how this material could be commercialized,

Mezzenga sees an initial application in gastronomy. In culinary applications, pure gold has an approved E-number code (E-175) allowing his use as additive in foods and indeed gold leafs have long been used to decorate desserts, drinks and other specially prepared foods. Because the new hybrid material is made of gold and dietary proteins, the researchers do not anticipate any hurdles in using it for culinary purposes, thereby considerably reducing the cost of using pure gold.

Even more interesting, however, are the unusual optical properties of the “gold paper”, especially as the gold is available as monocrystals. These properties change according to the pH value, for instance, which means the hybrid material could be used for acidity measurements in sensors. The “paper” is also conductive to varying degrees depending on its composition and lends itself to applications in microelectronics.

Because, at face value, the gold paper is barely distinguishable from gold leaf – it has the lustre and colour of gold – it may also be interesting for the clock and jewellery industries, which could reduce their demand for the precious metal with protein gold leaf. In order to imitate gold leaf, the hybrid material only needs a ratio of one third weight percentage of gold. The new material would thus be just the ticket for gold-plating the numbers on the faces of wristwatches, for instance. “When you consider how much pure gold costs, this new material makes a massive difference,” says the ETH-Zurich professor. On the one hand, it could help to reduce the global demand for gold and thus relieve the pressure on natural resources; on the other hand, the hybrid material broadens the fields of application for the metal.

The researchers have filed a patent for their invention. Mezzenga hopes that industry will show an interest in the new material. “Gold is a delicate subject. Nonetheless, the potential for applications is vast.”

Here’s a link to and reference for the research paper,

Li C, Bolisetty S and Mezzenga R (2013). Hybrid Nanocomposites of Gold Single-Crystal Platelets and Amyloid Fibrils with Tunable Fluorescence, Conductivity, and Sensing Properties. Adv. Mater. doi: 10.1002/adma.201300904

This paper is behind a paywall.

In the category of idle thoughts, perhaps I should have called this ‘milky gold’, eh?

Nanotechnology-enabled fashion at Cornell University

The image you see below is one of several featuring work from Cornell University’s Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory,

Wearable Charging StationCredit: Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory/Cornell UniversityAbbey Liebman, a design student at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., created a dress made with conductive cotton that can charge an iPhone via solar panels.

Wearable Charging StationCredit: Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory/Cornell University. Abbey Liebman, a design student at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., created a dress made with conductive cotton that can charge an iPhone via solar panels.

It’s part of a May 7, 2013 slide show put together by Denise Chow at the LiveScience website. Also shown in the slide show are Olivia Ong’s anti-bacterial clothing (featured here in an Aug. 5, 2011 posting) and some anti-malarial clothing by Matilda Ceesay (featured here in a May 15, 2012 posting). I have more details about the textiles and the work but the pictures on LiveScience are better.

As I’ve not come across LiveScience before ,my curiosity was piqued and to satisfy it, I found this on their About page,

LiveScience, launched in 2004, is the trusted and provocative source for highly accessible science, health and technology news for people who are curious about their minds, bodies, and the world around them. Our team of experienced science reporters, editors and video producers explore the latest discoveries, trends and myths, interviewing expert sources and offering up deep and broad analyses of topics that affect peoples’ lives in meaningful ways. LiveScience articles are regularly featured on the web sites of our media partners:, Yahoo!, the Christian Science Monitor and others.

Most of the science on LiveScience is ‘bite-sized’ and provides information for people who are busy and/or don’t want much detail.

Getting intimate with your smart clothing at Concordia University (Canada)

The Karma Chameleon project at Concordia University is an investigation into ‘smart’ clothing that goes beyond the ‘how to’ and also asks how would we feel about clothing than can transform itself without our volition. An Apr. 16, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily highlights the project and its lead researcher, Joanna Berkowska,

Joanna Berzowska, professor and chair of the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia, has developed interactive electronic fabrics that harness power directly from the human body, store that energy, and then use it to change the garments’ visual properties.

“Our goal is to create garments that can transform in complex and surprising ways — far beyond reversible jackets, or shirts that change colour in response to heat. That’s why the project is called Karma Chameleon,” says Berzowska.

The Apr. 15, 2013 Concordia University news release by Emily Essert, which originated the news item, describes the unique technical aspect of this work,

The major innovation of this research project is the ability to embed these electronic or computer functions within the fibre itself: rather than being attached to the textile, the necessary electronic components are woven into these new composite fibres. The fibres consist of multiple layers of polymers, which, when stretched and drawn out to a small diameter, begin to interact with each other. The fabric, produced in collaboration with the École Polytechnique de Montréal’s Maksim Skorobogatiy, represent a significant advance in the development of “smart textiles.”

Although it’s not yet possible to manufacture clothing with the new composite fibres, Berzowska worked with fashion designers to create conceptual prototypes that can help us visualize how such clothing might look and behave. Imagine a dress that changes shape and colour on its own, or a shirt that can capture the energy from human movement and use it to charge an iPhone

According to Berzowska, it will be two to three decades before we see this clothing in the stores but in the meantime she’s also investigating the social impact (from the Concordia news release),

There would also be a performative aspect to wearing such garments, whose dramatic transformations may or may not be controlled by the wearer. This research raises interesting questions about human agency relative to fashion and computers. What would it mean to wear a piece of clothing with “a mind of its own,” that cannot be consciously controlled? How much intimate contact with computers do we really want?

Apparently, there will be a show at Montréal’s PHi Centre in either 2o13 or 2014, Unfortunately the centre does not list any events planned after June 2013.

The project title, Karma Chameleon gives me an excuse to feature Boy George’s identically titled hit song,

I’d never seen the video before and it was a revelation. Tip: Do not pickpocket jewellery or cheat at cards; Karma will get you.

Gold Light jewellery courtesy of gold nanoparticles and designers in Spain

Nanowerk is featuring a Dec. 21, 2012 news item about a jewellery project from the Institut Català de Nanotecnologia (ICN) Note: Links have been removed,

The Centre for NanoBioSafety and Sustainability (CNBSS) organised the premiere of Gold Light, the first quantum jewellery product, last week at the Hotel Mercer, in Barcelona [Spain]. Gold Light is the fruit of a collaboration that combines Barcelona’s long artisanal tradition with Nanotechnology developed by Institut Català de Nanotecnologia (ICN)’s Inorganic Nanoparticles Group. Gold Light is an extraordinary jewellery product, unique for both its innovation and its aesthetics.

The ICN’s Dec. 13, 2012 news release provides more detail (which originated the news item on Nanowerk),

A multidisciplinary team, including jewellery designer Roberto Carrascosa, artist Joan Peris, production designer Francesc Oliveras, and art business manager Jose Luis Fettolini, developed Gold Light over the course of a year, based on specialist knowledge from the Inorganic Nanoparticles Group. The final product exploits the aesthetic potential of noble-metal nanoparticles and their special interaction with light. Jewellers traditionally work with precious metals, which in their smallest form exist as nanoparticles(at smaller sizes, metal particles lose their metallic properties). Gold Light, composed of gold nanoparticles, represents the advent of quantum jewellery, where quantum is used in the literal sense. Their work on Gold Light has also served as a case model for the CNBSS to evaluate the regulatory mechanisms and corporate obligations for the development and marketing of a product that contains nanoparticles. For the CNBSS, the venture served as a study in the safety-by-design of a nanoproduct, through advice from attorney Ignasi Gispert.

Here’s what one of the pieces looks like,

The distinctive colours of Gold Light jewellery derive from different types of gold nanoparticles.

The distinctive colours of Gold Light jewellery derive from different types of gold nanoparticles.

You can see more on the Gold Light jewellery website but you won’t find any technical information about the colour differences or information about how to purchase.

Nano gold-covered ties for Catholic school girls?

If you’re looking for an early Christmas gift and have several thousand dollars to spare, you may want to check out this Nov. 1, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

True luxury has only one color – gold. A nanometer-thin layer of pure gold now lends ties and pocket handkerchiefs that authentic gold sheen, thanks to a new Empa-developed process. The yarn, which is coated using a high-tech plasma process, is soft and easy to weave. It is also washing machine compatible. A limited number of gold ties will be placed on the market before Christmas, making a truly exclusive present. …

Gold radiates with a violet hue, at least when it is sprayed onto a surface atom by atom, as can be seen by looking into a plasma coating plant when in operation. This particular plant, which is about as large as a household refrigerator, can be found on the premises of the Tersuisse spinning mill in Emmen. Inside the apparatus a piece of gold is bombarded with fast moving argon ions which knock atoms off the metal surface. These gold atoms fly off and land on a polyester fiber which is slowly pulled through the machine. This is the beginning of the production process which for the first time in the world creates a textile material permanently coated with a durable layer of gold. The precious metal remains attached to the fiber even when it is rolled, kinked, woven in a loom and given a final wash.

I gather they’ve decided to market this product to men, although Catholic school girls also wear ties, so they could be considered a secondary market. There are also plans to bring this nano gold-coated textile to haute couture,

There is little chance that these exclusive gold ties will become mass produced fashion accessories in the near future – even at full capacity production is limited to a maximum of 600 pieces annually for the world market. In actual fact it is certain that far fewer will actually be produced, since a part of the gold coated thread which is produced is reserved for other project partners. The Jakob Schlaepfer company, embroiderers and manufacturers of decorative textiles, will also use the gold yarn for items in its Winter 2012/13 Haute Couture collection.

For those already opening their cheque books or signing in to Paypal, the cost of a tie is 7500 Swiss francs (roughly $8600 CAD).

Nano clothing takes Manhattan

Fiber scientist Juan Hinestroza has been making the media rounds lately about nanotechnology-enabled textiles/clothing. From the August 2, 2011 article by Jill Colvin for,

Imagine clothes that change color with the press of a button, charge your cell phone, clean the air, kill bacteria and repel stains so they never have to be washed again.

That’s the mission of Cornell University fiber science pioneer Juan Hinestroza, who’s leading the revolution to bring high-end function to high-end fashion in Manhattan.

Presenting his findings to a small group of reporters at Cornell’s ILR Conference Center in Midtown Tuesday, Hinestroza said that in less than a decade, he expects nanotechnology to be commonplace in the clothing industry.

It’s interesting to see this as I first came across Hinestroza’s work in 2007 when I was developing my Nanotech Mysteries wiki page, Scientists get fashionable.

copyright 2007 Cornell University) Design student Olivia Ong ’07 with garments, treated with metallic nanoparticles through a collaboration with fiber scientists, Juan Hinestroza and Hong Dong, that she designed for ‘Gliteratti’ collection.

(For permission to copy and use the image please contact, The Cornell Chronicle media office here: or 607.254.6236.)

The fabric you see in the image cost, in 2007, $10,000 per square meter. I wonder what it would cost today?


Nanotechnology-enabled Catalytic Clothes look good and clean the air

There’s a great video on the RIA Novosti website featuring interviews about an art/science collaboration between Professor Helen Storey at the London College of Fashion and Professor Tony Ryan, a scientist at the University of Sheffield. The two have created clothing that cleans the air of pollution. From the University of Sheffield June 15, 2011 news release,

Catalytic Clothing is a radical partnership between the University of Sheffield and London College of Fashion University of the Arts London that brings together the worlds of fashion and chemistry with the potential to clean the air we breathe. Employing existing technology in a new way, it seeks to explore how clothing and textiles can be used as a catalytic surface to purify air. It is the brainchild of artist/designer Professor Helen Storey MBE and chemist Professor Tony Ryan OBE – people from two very differing worlds who are using their diametric approaches to achieve great things. Previous projects include the groundbreaking Wonderland project which has now been seen by over 11 million people worldwide.

An exclusive film starring Erin O’Connor with soundtrack by Radiohead is already going viral with millions of views.

Here’s a brief preview of the film,

Here’s a link to the Catalytic Clothing website where you can see the entire film.

For those interested in the science part of the Catalytic Clothing story (from the Catalytic Clothing website, Scientific Background/FAQS page),

What is the science behind Catalytic Clothing?

Catalytic Clothing harnesses the power of a photocatalyst to break down air borne pollutants. A catalyst is a term used to describe something that makes a reaction proceed at a greater rate but isn’t actually consumed during that reaction. A photocatalyst gains the energy it needs to be active from light.

Where do the pollutants come from?

The two biggest sources of air borne pollutants are industry and motor vehicles. Although the majority of the pollutants are prevented from reaching the air, using technology such as catalytic converters, some do escape. It is these pollutants that Catalytic Clothing will break down.

How are the pollutants broken down?

When the light shines on the photocatalyst, the electrons in the material are rearranged and they become more reactive. These electrons are then able to react with the water in the air and break it apart into 2 radicals. A radical is an extremely reactive molecule. These radicals then react with the pollutants and cause them to break down into non-harmful chemicals.

What happens to the pollutants after they’ve been broken down?

The Catalytic Clothing technology is designed to breakdown the pollutants straight away. However, some pollutants may become attached without being broken down. In this case, the pollutants will be washed off during subsequent laundering. This actually already happens with normal clothing.

Is this technology used in any other products?

Photocatalysts have been incorporated into several commercially available products that possess de-polluting properties. These products include paints, cements and paving stones. [Note 1: In the RIA Novosti video, Ryan mentions titanium dioxide specifically. Note 2: Coatings for pavements in Germany are mentioned in my August 2, 2010 posting; scroll down 1/2 way.]

How is the technology delivered to the surface of the clothing?

The photocatalyst is delivered to the surface of the clothing during the traditional laundry procedure as an additive within a standard product such as a fabric conditioner. The active agent is packaged within a shell that is attracted towards, and subsequently binds to, the surface of the clothing during the washing cycle.

Why do we need mass participation to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution?

Although any garment that is treated with the product becomes active, a single garment is only able to remove a small proportion of the air borne pollutants. Therefore, a large number of individuals, all acting together, is required to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution.

How many people would need to participate to produce a noticeable reduction in the level of pollution?

An estimate of the required level of uptake for the Catalytic Clothing indicates that a significant reduction in the level of air borne pollutants in a large city such as London could be achieved if, for every metre of pavement width, 30 people wearing Catalytic Clothes walked past each minute.

Would someone wearing Catalytic Clothing be at a greater risk of exposure to pollutants?

No. The Catalytic Clothing technology won’t actively attract any pollutants. Instead, it will break down anything that comes within very close proximity of the photocatalyst’s surface.

How would society benefit if Catalytic Clothing was widely introduced?

Exposure to air borne pollutants presents a risk to human health and also has a detrimental effect on ecosystems and vegetation. Air pollution is currently estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7-8 months. The widespread introduction of Catalytic Clothing would dramatically reduce the level of air borne pollutants, thereby improving the quality of life for all members of society.

The main sponsor for the project is Ecover (from the news release),

Ecover, who are the main sponsors of the Catalytic Clothing cultural campaign, are one of the world´s leading suppliers of green and sustainable cleaning products. All of their products are made with fully renewable plant-based ingredients and produced using a totally biochemical process. Ecover has been recognised by the United Nations Environment programme (UNEP) for their outstanding practical achievements for the protection and improvement of our environment.

Here’s the Ecover website.

This really is the last posting for today. Happy Weekend!

ETA July 11, 2011: Here’s a posting by Jasmin Malik Chua about the project at the Ecouterre website.

Nanotechnology enables robots and human enhancement: part 3

There’s another way of looking at the robot situation. Instead of making machines more like people, why not make people more like machines? That seems to be the subtext when you read about human enhancement and, like yesterday’s discussion about robots, you find yourself talking to a transhumanist or two.

Tracy Picha writing in Flare magazine’s August 2009 issue (The Future of Our Body) starts her article with an anecdote about Aimee Mullins, a record-breaking paralympian (and double amputee), wearing prosthetic legs to an event that boosted her standard height from 5’8″ to 6’1″.

As the story goes, Mullins reconnected with an old friend who had known her only at her shorter height. “Her mouth dropped when she saw me,” recalls Mullins, “and she said, ‘But you’re so tall!'”

“I know, isn’t it fun?” was Mullins’ reply.

“But, Aimee, that’s not fair.”

Picha finishes off the anecdote after a discussion of augmentation and enhancement that includes the story of a guy in Finland needing a prosthetic to replace part of a severed finger and choosing one that has a USB port in its tip. She goes on to discuss a subculture of people who embed magnetic chips into their bodies so they can sense magnetic and electromagnetic fields thereby giving themselves a sixth sense. There’s also a discussion with a transhumanist and a contrasting view from Susie Orbach, author of Bodies. Orbach has this to say,

… the body has become a casing for fantasy rather than a place from which to live.

It’s all becoming a metaphysical question. What is it to be human? I have misgivings about all this talk about enhancement and, as mentioned yesterday, improving the human genome.

Meanwhile, Picha’s article is thought-provoking and it’s in a fashion magazine, which bears out my belief that a lot science communication takes place outside its usual channels.  In one of my papers, I likened science communication to a conversation with several threads taking place.

Government studies such as the one from the UK (July 27, 2009 ETA this should read European Parliament not UK) that Michael Berger on Nanowerk Spotlight recently featured are definitely part of this conversation. From Berger’s article,

The authors of the study do not rely on the still widespread conceptual distinction between “therapy” and “enhancement”, but instead, in line with recent political statements on the issue, adopt a notion of human enhancement that includes non-therapeutic as well as some therapeutic measures.
Defining human enhancement as any “modification aimed at improving individual human performance and brought about by science-based or technology-based interventions in the human body”, they distinguish between
1) restorative or preventive, non-enhancing interventions,

2) therapeutic enhancements, and

3) non-therapeutic enhancements.

Faced with the often highly visionary and strongly ideological character of the debate on human enhancement, one must strive for a balance between advancing a rational discussion through critical analysis of the relevant visions and normative stances, and taking a close look at the diversity of HE technology and their actual social, technological and political significance

Berger’s article is well worth reading and  links to the report itself and other articles that he’s written on the topic. Monday, July 27, 2009, I should be wrapping up this series.

In keeping with today’s ‘fashionable theme, I leave you with something musical from Manolo’s Shoe Blog. The writer who is not The Manolo, recently posted on one of his favourite rock songs (and one I’ve always loved), Runaway by Del Shannon. The posting is poignant and touching. Manolo has included two versions of the song, one sung by Shannon in the 1960s and again in the 1980s (this one includes part of an interview about the song Shannon wrote so many years before). Both are well worth checking out as you can see how an artist matures and develops over time. Seeing both enhances the experience of listening to each one. Go here.