Scientists at the University of Maryland have engineered a new fabric capable of cooling you down or heating you up whenever your body veers from its normal temperature and humidity levels.
It’s an amazing discovery that could be used in everything, from our clothes to our beds. Imagine workout clothes that never let you get too hot. It could also be used to provide a comfortable “skin” to babies, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
The fabric doesn’t depend on external power or any electronic mechanism to work its magic. Instead, it’s made with a yarn that combines two synthetic material in its threads, which are coated with carbon nanotubes. One absorbs water while the second one repels it. At the same time, the fibers expand or contract when the temperature changes.
The result is a fabric that reacts to your body heat and wetness. If you are running in the park, the fibers will “feel” the increased temperature and sweat, tightening up. This motion activates the nanotubes, letting the heat escape and the sweat evaporate.
The contrary happens when you are cold: The nanotubes expand blocking the fabric’s pores, trapping the heat and warming you up.
The inventors envision its initial application in specialized clothing and linens for hospitals and high-performance sports, but the research paper published on February 8 in the journal Science says that the fabric doesn’t have any limitations and should be apt for any consumer use. Companies or even end users could dye it and knit it any way they want. And it’s machine-washable.
I asked YuHuang Wang, one of the co-inventors, when are we going to see this on the market. His response: “Mass production can take time, but, based on our limited data, this technology is scalable and we are working on finding a path to commercialize it.”
I say: It’s not coming soon enough.