Fabric keeps you cool or warms you up depending on the weather

Responsive fabric for the perfect all-weather wardrobe

Responsive fabric for the perfect all-weather wardrobe

University of Maryland researchers have created a fabric that can automatically regulate the amount of heat that passes through it depending on conditions.

This has a cooling effect because it allows heat to escape.

When conditions are warm and moist, such as those near a sweating body, the fabric allows heat to pass through. Similarly, in cool and dry conditions, the fabric reduces the surrounding heat that escapes.

The base yarn for the new infrared-adaptive textile is created with fibers made of two different synthetic materials - one absorbs water and the other repels it.

Made from specially engineered infrared-sensitive yarn, which responds to changes in the temperature and humidity of a person's skin by dynamically collapsing or expanding the structure of its fibers, the newly-developed textile shows great potential in the development of clothing systems capable of autonomously adapting to demanding environments.

The yarn that makes up this auto-regulating fabric can be woven, washed, and dyed much like other performance fabrics. Both are coated with a lightweight, carbon nanotubes. This material in the fabric both absorb and resist the water.

Many fabrics already trap infrared radiation to keep us warm, but can't vary by how much they do so. When the fibers come together, the electromagnetic coupling of the carbon nanotubes also changes.

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. Under hot, humid conditions, the strands of yarn reduced and enact the covering, which changes the manner in which the fabric interfaces with infrared radiation. When the fibers are brought closer together, the radiation they interact with changes.

However, when cold is present, the opposite reaction occurs allowing the infrared radiation to go through. The reaction is nearly instant, so before people realize they're getting hot, the garment could already be cooling them down. "It gives off heat quickly", said Min Ouyang, a professor at University of Maryland. On the flip side, as a body cools down, the dynamic gating system works backward to trap in warmth. The journal Science published this discovery in their 8 Feb' 2019 issue.

"This pioneering work provides an exciting new switchable characteristic for comfort-adjusting clothing", said Ray Baughman, a professor of chemistry at the University of Texas who was not engaged with the investigation. "Textiles were known that increase porosity in response to sweat or increasing temperature, as well as textiles that transmit the infrared radiation associated with body temperatures".

Scientists are further planning to modify it more before it comes to market.

More work is required before the fabric can be commercialized, however as indicated by the analysts, materials utilized for the base fiber are promptly accessible and the carbon coating can be effectively included amid standard dying process.

"I think it's very exciting to be able to apply this gating phenomenon to the development of a textile that has the ability to improve the functionality of clothing and other fabrics", Ouyang said.

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