Keeping it cool

February 1st, 2017 / By: / Projects

Clothing made from cooling plastic-based material could reduce the need for fans or air conditioning, saving energy. Photo: L.A. Cicero.
Clothing made from cooling plastic-based material could reduce the need for fans or air conditioning, saving energy. Photo: L.A. Cicero.

Scientists at Stanford University have developed a textile to keep you cool. It’s a plastic-based material that can be woven into fabric to cool the body two ways, allowing the wearer to feel nearly four degrees (F) cooler than with typical cotton clothing.

The textile cools first by enabling perspiration to evaporate through the material, like any typical fabric. But it also allows heat that the body emits as infrared radiation to pass through it.

The scientists started with polyethylene, which is somewhat like the common plastic used in kitchen wrap. However, they used a variant that has a specific nanostructure that is opaque to visible light, making it more appropriate for clothing. At the same time, it is transparent to infrared radiation, which could let body heat escape. It was then modified by treating it with benign chemicals to enable water vapor molecules to evaporate through nanopores in the plastic, allowing it to breathe like a natural fiber.

Next, the team created a more fabric-like three-ply version that consists of two outer sheets of treated polyethylene and an inner sheet of cotton mesh for strength and thickness. This version also passed the cooling test. For more, visit www.news.stanford.edu.

Leave a Reply