Lots of gloves and hats promise high-tech thermal regulation but never, until now, has there been a fabric that changes its insulating properties based on its environment.
Now, University of Maryland researchers have created a new kind of fabric which does exactly that.
Their research, published in the journal Science, describes their fabric which allows more heat to pass through it in warm, moist conditions (like those of a sweaty body) and which reduces heat escape in cooler, dryer conditions.
The secret to the fabrics behavior is in its string. The yarn is made from two different synthetic materials coated with carbon nanotubes. Because one of the materials absorbs water the other repels it, the fabric warps when it comes in contact with water, like sweat.
This helps open the fabric’s pores while also bringing the carbon nanotube coating closer together. The distance between nanotube strands acts sort of like an old television antenna, changing the way the fabric interacts with radiation, in this case, the heat radiating from a human body.
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.
However, no one before had found a way to switch both the porosity and infrared transparency of a textile so as to provide increased comfort in response to environmental conditions.
More work is needed before the fabric can be commercialized, but according to the researchers, materials used for the base fiber are readily available and the carbon coating can be easily added during standard dying process.
Reference- Science, Futurism, Phys.org