New fabric can keep you comfortable in any temperature

Researchers have published a study in PNAS Nexus detailing an innovative fabric that can adapt to different thermal states, ensuring wearer comfort across various temperatures. The fabric, developed by Po-Chun Hsu, Jie Yin, and their team, consists of a layered semi-solid electrochemical cell integrated into a kirigami-patterned nylon material, allowing it to stretch and move in sync with the wearer’s body.

While current clothing options offer insulating or breathable properties, they typically possess a single thermal mode determined by their emissivity, i.e., the rate at which they emit thermal energy. In contrast, the newly designed fabric incorporates an active material capable of electrically transitioning between two distinct states: a transmissive dielectric state and a lossy metallic state, each with a different emissivity. By adjusting the fabric’s ability to retain or radiate body heat, it can effectively regulate the wearer’s comfort level. As a result, individuals would experience the same skin temperature whether exposed to an external temperature of 22.0°C (71.6°F) or 17.1°C (62.8°F).

The fabric, termed “wearable variable-emittance device” or WeaVE, can be conveniently controlled through a smartphone app. Unlike other active thermoregulatory fabrics that rely on energy-intensive technologies like electric heating or water circulation, the WeaVE system consumes minimal energy. The fabric’s state-switching operation requires only a small amount of energy, estimated to be equivalent to the power stored in a typical smartphone battery, enabling approximately 1,000 fabric state transitions.

Source: PNAS Nexus

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