Practical Polymers: New Fabric in Development Acts as Wearable HVAC

The last week of January was a rattling gauntlet of cold for students and commuters. The polar vortex brought temperatures in the midwest well below zero, exhausting heating units and causing several deaths due to freezing and hypothermia.

“I just put on a hoodie and jacket – no gloves.” said senior Jonathan Mui. This general attitude toward cold weather is common among students who walk to school, but could be considered reckless during cold spells like the one this city experienced. In New York City, temperatures dipped into the single digits with below zero wind chills. What if a fabric could reduce the effects of such extreme weather?

A recent paper published in Science Advances has introduced a possible solution: Thermo-engineered reversible fabrics built to cool and warm several degrees better than our own body. Although the fabric sounds like a precursor to wildly expensive high-tech coats, the team behind the textile aims to make it easily manufactured and practical. The final product could greatly reduce energy costs and provide nice thermals for those braving the cold as well as the heat.

Co-author of the research paper and post-doctoral fellow Po-Chun Hsu estimates the technology will expand the comfortable temperature range by up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. This greatly out-performs the body’s natural regulation mechanisms which only work within a range of 2 degrees F.

Matthew Moore

Hi, I’m Matthew, the section editor for Technology. I am interested in the future of personal hardware tech and alternative currencies, and want to pursue a career in computer engineering. I will primarily focus on technology as it relates to the benefit of individuals.