17-Apr-2020 - American Chemical Society (ACS)

New textile could keep you cool in the heat, warm in the cold

Same fabric can perform both functions

Imagine a single garment that could adapt to changing weather conditions, keeping its wearer cool in the heat of midday but warm when an evening storm blows in. In addition to wearing it outdoors, such clothing could also be worn indoors, drastically reducing the need for air conditioning or heat. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have made a strong, comfortable fabric that heats and cools skin, with no energy input.

"Smart textiles" that can warm or cool the wearer are nothing new, but typically, the same fabric cannot perform both functions. These textiles have other drawbacks, as well -- they can be bulky, heavy, fragile and expensive. Many need an external power source. Guangming Tao and colleagues wanted to develop a more practical textile for personal thermal management that could overcome all of these limitations.

The researchers freeze-spun silk and chitosan, a material from the hard outer skeleton of shellfish, into colored fibers with porous microstructures. They filled the pores with polyethylene glycol (PEG), a phase-changing polymer that absorbs and releases thermal energy. Then, they coated the threads with polydimethylsiloxane to keep the liquid PEG from leaking out. The resulting fibers were strong, flexible and water-repellent. To test the fibers, the researchers wove them into a patch of fabric that they put into a polyester glove. When a person wearing the glove placed their hand in a hot chamber (122 F), the solid PEG absorbed heat from the environment, melting into a liquid and cooling the skin under the patch. Then, when the gloved hand moved to a cold (50 F) chamber, the PEG solidified, releasing heat and warming the skin. The process for making the fabric is compatible with the existing textile industry and could be scaled up for mass production, the researchers say.

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • textiles
  • silk
  • chitosan
  • polyethylene glycols
  • polydimethylsiloxane
  • fibers
More about American Chemical Society
  • News

    Gold- and bronze-like paints that don't contain metal

    Lustrous metallic paints are used to enhance the beauty of many products, such as home decorations, cars and artwork. But most of these pigments owe their sheen to flakes of aluminum, copper, zinc or other metals, which have drawbacks. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Omega have developed ... more

    Digitizing chemistry with a smart stir bar

    Miniaturized computer systems and wireless technology are offering scientists new ways to keep tabs on reactions without the need for larger, cumbersome equipment. In a proof-of-concept study in ACS Sensors, researchers describe an inexpensive new device that functions like a conventional m ... more

    Levitating droplets allows to perform 'touchless' chemical reactions

    Levitation has long been a staple of magic tricks and movies. But in the lab, it's no trick. Scientists can levitate droplets of liquid, though mixing them and observing the reactions has been challenging. The pay-off, however, could be big as it would allow researchers to conduct contact-f ... more

  • Videos

    What Makes Rubber Rubbery?

    Reactions is looking at sports science today. Sports balls owe their reliability to an unusual polymer. Learn about the chemistry of rubber the all-star’s best friend! more

    Dragon's Blood Could Save Your Life

    This week Reactions is looking at chemistry in bizarre places that could save your life. The science within the blood of the Komodo dragon or in a horseshoe crab can help with antibiotic resistance. But it doesn't end there, so we're taking a closer look at other wild places in nature that ... more

    Why is Olive Oil Awesome?

    Whether you sop it up with bread or use it to boost your cooking, olive oil is awesome. But a lot of chemistry goes on in that bottle that can make or break a product. Take the “extra virgin” standard: Chemistry tells us that a higher free-fatty-acid content leads to a lower grade, less tas ... more

More about Huazhong University of Science and Technology