From the realm of discoveries you never thought possible, a new plastic clothing material that cools the skin could truly change the way textiles are manufactured.
Stanford researchers have found a new textile that’s derived from plastics which can be woven into clothing and help cool the body by up to four degrees. Moisture-wicking technology has already made an impact on the heat-trapping nature of some fabrics, but MorningTicker says this plastic clothing material works in two ways to help dissipate heat.
Traditional cotton-based fabrics tend to trap body heat, but this new plastic clothing material would let perspiration evaporate and then allow body heat to pass through it in the form of infrared instead of holding it in. This would allow the four-degree reduction in body temperature much more efficiently than standard natural and synthetic clothing.
Of course, there are other less obvious benefits to this plastic clothing material as well, such as a more comfortable work environment in buildings without spending so much energy to cool them.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]“If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy,” said Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and of photon science at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
So in addition to the increased comfort, this plastic clothing material would also allow people to work comfortably at temperatures previously not thought to be as suitable. Both energy and the costs of using that energy would be saved for the environment and for the businesses themselves as a result.
“Forty to 60 percent of our body heat is dissipated as infrared radiation when we are sitting in an office,” said Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering who specializes in photonics, which is the study of visible and invisible light. “But until now there has been little or no research on designing the thermal radiation characteristics of textiles… Wearing anything traps some heat and makes the skin warmer. If dissipating thermal radiation were our only concern, then it would be best to wear nothing.”
So as 2016 is on pace to become the hottest year on record, the Los Angeles Times says that this new plastic clothing material, which is a nanoporous form of polyethylene, provided much greater benefits compared to conventional fabrics.
In a study, a device that mimicked the response of human skin on a hot day saw a 3.5-degree Celsius rise when covered in cotton or a 2.9-degree increase when clothed in commercially available polyethylene, which is what most athletic wear is made of these days. When cloaked in the new plastic clothing material, the artificial skin temperature climbed by just 0.8 degrees Celsius.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]By scattering specific wavelengths of light in the same fashion that makes the sky appear blue, this new plastic clothing material uses the same principles that allow the Saharan silver ant to stay cool in the sweltering heat of a desert afternoon to keep the skin comfortable as well.
As Menlo Park Patch pointed out, this cooling textile blends nanotechnology, photonics and chemistry to give polyethylene – or plastic wrap – a number of characteristics desirable in clothing material.
Though the see-through nature of plastic wrap would render it useless as clothing, this new breakthrough allows thermal radiation, air and water vapor to pass through and is opaque to visible light. So to remain modest while feeling as though one is wearing very little, this plastic clothing material is ideal according to the study published in Science Magazine.
While our dependence on oil and its derivatives may be furthered by this fabric, the overall usage of this finite resource would likely be diminished by the offsetting reduction in energy usage to cool buildings in an increasingly warmer environment. This new plastic clothing material is the type of discovery that could prove to be more beneficial to staving off a global climate crisis and keeping us all comfortable while doing so.[Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]