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Small particles, big impact

Molecular simulations of a crystallized fat layer (gray/red) disrupted by nanodiamonds (blue) and detergent molecules (cyan/yellow/red).

Professor Tiffany Walsh and her team at Deakin University have developed an application to use nanoparticles in laundry powder to achieve a hot wash outcome at a much lower water temperature.

“Washing clothes at 90 degrees Celsius melts that really stubborn fat layer and lifts it off the surface of the fabric,” she explains.

“One of the projects we’ve been working on, driven by Dr Zak Hughes, has been to explore a way to predict, using computer models, how adding carbon nanoparticles into laundry powder can dissolve the fat on your clothes, allowing you to wash at a lower temperature.

“When you think about how much energy gets used on the planet everyday by people doing a hot wash, the energy saving benefit for this would have a huge global impact.”

Professor Walsh has been using NCI’s Raijin supercomputer to work out how carbon nanoparticles interact with fat molecules in combination with the detergent molecules in laundry powder.

“Some colleagues in the UK who have been sponsored by multinational manufacturer company Procter & Gamble have published some initial findings from their experimental observations, and through the simulations we’ve done on Raijin, we’ve been able to propose the mechanism through which the nanoparticles confer this effect,” she says.

“This will hopefully lead to new developments in being able to take this idea forward in that practical way.”

Professor Walsh says that using the NCI facilities was critical to her team’s work.

“Having access to NCI facilities has been a real game changer for us. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this work without the access we were granted on Raijin. It’s been completely essential.”

Professor Walsh is supported by the Victorian Endowment for Science Knowledge and Innovation. 

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