A team of engineers at Stanford has developed a plastic-based, economical textile that can keep your skin cool way better than natural or synthetic fabrics. The researchers are of the opinion that this new fabric family can be the basis of garments that can help people in staying cool during summers without any air conditioning. Yi Cui, one of the associate materials science and engineering professor at Stanford explains, “If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy.”
Figure 1: Fabric cools people skin
The new material cools down the body in two ways, it allows the body heat to escape bringing the body temperature down by 4 degree Fahrenheit as compared to cotton. The material allows the perspiration to evaporate through the material, a normal procedure that is already allowed by natural fabrics. However, along with it, this one comes with an extra cooling mechanism which is revolutionary. It allows even that heat to pass through the cloth that is radiated by human body in form of infrared materials.
All kind of objects, along with our human bodies, emits heat in form of infrared radiations. Blankets always warm up by trapping that heat. When this thermal radiation escapes through our bodies it makes us invisible through night-vision goggles. Shanhui Fan, an electrical engineering professor who specializes in photonics explains that, “Forty to sixty percent of our body heat is dissipated as infrared radiation when we are sitting in an office. But until now there has been little or no research on designing the thermal radiation characteristics of textiles.”
In order to develop this supercool textile, the research team blended chemistry and nanotechnology photonics to form polyethylene - a clingy, clear plastic that we use in our kitchen wraps. These wraps have several features that we wish our cloths had. It gives access to thermal radiations, water, and air through it and remains opaque to visible light at the same time. The most simple characteristic of this material is that it permits the infrared rays to pass through it, a reason why it is mostly used in food wraps. The team took their notes from this and discovered another variant of this material that is often used in battery making. This one has a nanostructure that is opaque to light but transparent to infrared rays permitting the heat to pass through it. This became the base material for this new product which was later modified to form the textile.