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Eco-friendly passive cooling solution

Swatches | February 1, 2022 | By:

Nanopores in fabrics made of PE allow heat to escape from the body. Photos: MIT Dept. of Mechanical Engineering.

Scientists from MIT’s Dept. of Mechanical Engineering have developed a means to modify fibers of PE (polyethylene), found in plastic wrap and grocery bags, to create fabrics that absorb and evaporate water more quickly than common textiles such as cotton, nylon and polyester.

The nanopores in fabrics made of PE allow heat to escape rather than trapping it against the body. PE is normally hydrophobic, but by extruding the PE and bundling the fibers, the surface energy becomes weakly hydrophilic, and the spaces between fibers form capillaries through which water molecules can be passively absorbed. The absorption and evaporation creates passive cooling. In addition, the researchers found it would require less energy to produce PE textiles, compared to polyester and cotton. MIT research scientist Svetlana Boriskina reports that a new startup is working with the military and industrial partners on appropriate applications for the textile. 

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