Scientists develop air-conditioning clothes that regulate heat

Rodiano Bonacci
Febbraio 12, 2019

Researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) have created a material that can automatically regulate the amount of heat that passes through it.

A textile that reacts to hot and cold conditions, allowing it to keep marathon runners cool or alpine hikers warm, has been developed by scientists.

In cooler, drier conditions, the fabric traps more infrared heat, resulting in the wearer staying warmer.

Fibers are created with two kinds of synthetic materials: one absorbs water and the other repels it.

The fabric engages an action called "gating" the body's infrared radiation via the use of conductive metal coated onto a special type of engineered yarn. "But this fabric is a true bidirectional regulator". The strands are covered with carbon nanotubes, an exceptional class of lightweight, carbon-based, conductive metal.

What they mean by "gating" is the fabric's ability to let heat through or block it.

That distortion brings the strands of yarn closer together, which opens the pores in the fabric.

According to researchers, more work is needed before the fabric can be commercialized for the development of high-tech clothing, but fortunately the materials needed are readily available, and that the carbon coating is something that can easily be added during the dyeing process.

This acts as a heat regulating-switch, which automatically turns on or off depending on your level of thermal discomfort, said YuHuang Wang, a UMD professor of chemistry and biochemistry and one of the paper's corresponding authors.

The team's work appears in the journal Science. When the fibers are brought closer together, the radiation they interact with changes. "It gives off heat quickly", said co-lead author Professor Min Ouyang, a researcher at the University of Maryland.

The yarn expands and collapses based on the heat and humidity, which changes the spacing of the fibers.

Depending on the tuning, the textile either blocks infrared radiation or allows it to pass through. The reaction is nearly instant, so before individuals realize they're getting hot, the garment could as of now be cooling them down. However, the moment body gets cooler, the gating mechanism starts working in reverse to allow the heat. However, this is the first demonstration of a material that can change both porosity and infrared transparency, thereby providing more comfort in response to environmental conditions.

This work was supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy, as part of its "Delivering Efficient Local Thermal Amenities (DELTA)" program (Award No. DE-AR0000527).

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