New Plastic-Based Textile Helps Cool You Off

New Plastic-Based Textile Helps Cool You Off


Researchers engineered a low-cost plastic material that could become the basis for clothing that cools the wearer.‎.




A new type of fabric could keep people cool in hot climates and reduce the need for expensive and energy-consuming air conditioning, a new study finds.‎.


A team of researchers has developed a low-cost, plastic-based textile that allows the body to release heat in a new way.‎ Just as sweating is one way the body cools off, the new clothing could help people reduce body heat.‎ This cooling clothing could allow for air-conditioning to be set to a lower output than usual while still ensuring people stay cool, the researchers noted.‎.


Heating and cooling spaces contribute to 12.‎3 percent of total energy consumption in the U.S.‎, according to the researchers.‎ Efforts to reduce energy use have focused on improving building insulation and enabling "smart" temperature control.‎ However, engineers studying "personal thermal management" found that providing heating or cooling only to one person — rather than the power needed to cool an entire building — would result in far higher energy efficiency.‎



"If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy,‏" Yi Cui, one of the study authors and an associate professor of materials science and engineering, and of photon science at Stanford University, said in a statement.‎.

As with ordinary fabrics, the new material allows perspiration to evaporate.‎ However, its other, new cooling mechanism works by allowing the heat the body emits as infrared radiation to pass through the textile, the researchers explained.‎.

"Forty to 60 percent of our body heat is dissipated as infrared radiation when we are sitting in an office,‏" said study co-author Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University who specializes in photonics, the study of visible and invisible light.‎ "But until now, there has been little or no research on designing the thermal radiation characteristics of textiles.‎"

The researchers used a commercially available plastic material — nanoporous polyethylene (nanoPE), which has interconnected pores 50 to 1,000 nanometers in diameter and is used in batteries as a separator to prevent electrical shorting.‎ NanoPE's pores allow for infrared waves to be released.‎ In lab tests, the researchers found that nanoPE allowed 96 percent of the infrared radiation to pass through.‎ By contrast, cotton permitted only 1.‎5 percent of the infrared radiation to pass through.‎.

If woven into clothing, the nanoPE material could make the wearer feel nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than if they were wearing cotton clothing, the researchers said.‎.

As the scientists continue their research, they are adding more colors, textures and other characteristics to the nanoPE material to make it more cloth-like.‎.