A team of Stanford researchers has developed a low-cost, plastic-like material that is aimed to keep the body cool.

The material is said to cool by allowing for perspiration to evaporate and letting the heat emitted by the body as infrared radiation pass through it. Commercial fabrics are designed to be opaque to visible light, which subsequently makes them opaque to infrared light, heat, and therefore trap it near the body. They basically act as a heat protecting dome, something that is rather undesired on a scorching hot day.

Image credit: www.midtwentiesgal.com

The fabric is modified polyethylene filled with nanopores that alter its appearance from transparent to white-ish. The pores then scatter visible light, making the material appear solid to the naked eye. To test the cooling potential of the new fabric, the team placed a small swatch of each material on a surface of the same temperature as bare skin and measured how much heat each one trapped. According to their findings, the cotton fabric made the skin surface 3,6 degrees warmer than their newly developed material.

In addition, the scientist added a chemical to attract and get rid of moisture. Meaning that not only will the material help let heat escape the body but it will also do away with sweat that ordinarily clings to the skin, making one feel hot and sticky. During the experiment, the researchers made a three-ply version of the material, placing a thin cotton mesh between two sheets of polyethylene. This gave it more structure and made it more ‘fabric-like’.

Cool clothing
Image credit: Yi Cui Group – Stanford University

Cool clothing could save money

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. homeowners spend about $11 billion per annum on air-conditioning alone. These appliances use about 5% of the total electricity produced in the country and emit approximately 100 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. That makes an average of two tons for each household that employs an air-conditioner. An estimated 2 out of 3 U.S. homes have this appliance, which means that 66.6% of all households in the United States are equipped with these cooling systems.

Cool clothing
According to Medical Daily, one of the researchers involved, Yi Cui, stated: “If you want to make a textile, you have to be able to make huge volumes inexpensively.” Image credit: Yi Cui Group – Stanford University

These devices represent an average of 6% of households’ total energy use. However this percentage is subject to increase during the summer. Especially in places that are prone to get hotter than others. The U.S. Department of Energy calculated that if more homeowners used high-efficiency air conditioners or use an alternative to air cooling systems, say polyethylene infused clothing, they would reduce their energy usage by 20-50%.

This cooling material could do wonders for the conservation of the planet’s energy. It could reduce the pollution caused by air cooling systems, which are a major contributor to the carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere that have caused global warming. The current difficulty with which the researchers are faced is to make the fabric aesthetically pleasing and to find a way to mass produce it, making it available to the average person.

Source: Medical Daily