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Fabric Automatically Cools Or Insulates Based On Environment
University of Maryland scientists YuHuang Wang and Ouyang Min have created the first textile able to automatically change properties to trap or release heat depending on environmental faconditions.
(New fabric cools and insulates)
The researchers created the fabric from specially engineered yarn coated with a conductive metal. Under hot, humid conditions, the strands of yarn compact and activate the coating, which changes the way the fabric interacts with infrared radiation. They refer to the action as "gating" of infrared radiation, which acts as a tunable blind to transmit or block heat.
"This is the first technology that allows us to dynamically gate infrared radiation," said YuHuang Wang, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UMD and one of the paper's corresponding authors who directed the studies.
The base yarn for this new textile is created with fibers made of two different synthetic materials -- one absorbs water and the other repels it. The strands are coated with carbon nanotubes, a special class of lightweight, carbon-based, conductive metal. Because materials in the fibers both resist and absorb water, the fibers warp when exposed to humidity such as that surrounding a sweating body. That distortion brings the strands of yarn closer together, which does two things. First, it opens the pores in the fabric. This has a small cooling effect because it allows heat to escape. Second, and most importantly, it modifies the electromagnetic coupling between the carbon nanotubes in the coating.
I can see incorporating this fabric in a real-world version of the stillsuit from Frank Herbert's classic 1965 novel Dune.
It's basically a micro-sandwich; a high-efficiency filter and heat-exchange system. The skin-contact layer is porous. Perspiration passes through it, having cooled the body...
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