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Polydimethylsiloxane-coated textiles with minimized microplastic pollution


Microplastic fibres (MPFs) released during the laundering of synthetic textiles are one of the largest sources of microplastic pollution in oceanic environments, forming a barrier to a sustainable textile industry. Here we report a robust fabric finish for nylon, taking advantage of environmentally friendly polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) brushes, which lessens the release of MPFs by lowering friction. Tribological evaluation reveals a substantially reduced coefficient of friction for PDMS-coated nylon in both dry and wet conditions. A molecular primer based on sulfonated mercaptosilane creates strong ionic bonding between the PDMS coating and the nylon fabric to enhance wash durability. Accordingly, MPF formation can be reduced by 93 ± 2% for coated fabrics after repeated laundering. Importantly, none of the essential properties, such as hydrophobicity, surface structure and comfort of the fabrics, are compromised after washing. Low-friction fabric finishes provide a green route for the design of synthetic fabrics and could help the textile industry transition away from its current, unsustainable practices.

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Fig. 1: Experimental programme and structures of nylon fabric surfaces.
Fig. 2: MPF analysis.
Fig. 3: Fabric analysis before/after washing.
Fig. 4: Effect of primer–PDMS-brush finish on friction.

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We acknowledge that this work was conducted at the University of Toronto, on the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca and the Mississauga of the Credit. This project was supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, through grant no. 41543, and by the University of Toronto through the WaterSeed programme.

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Authors and Affiliations



K.G. conceived and directed the project. S.K.L. and Z.A.D. performed the experimental work and wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and contributed to manuscript writing and editing.

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Correspondence to Kevin Golovin.

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Nature Sustainability thanks Jintu Fan and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Text, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Figs. 1 – 15 and Supplementary references.

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Lahiri, S.K., Azimi Dijvejin, Z. & Golovin, K. Polydimethylsiloxane-coated textiles with minimized microplastic pollution. Nat Sustain 6, 559–567 (2023).

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