Donghua University scientists have developed a new fabric material that they say could help keep its wearers cool without using any electricity.
According to a paper published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, the scientists contend that the new fabric transfers heat, allows moisture to evaporate from the skin, and repels water too.
Air conditioning and other space cooling methods account for about 10% of all electricity consumption in the U.S., says the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Developing a personal cooling fabric that could efficiently transfer heat away from the body, while also being breathable, water repellent and easy to make, has thus got the science community ticking.
According to Yang Si, Bin Ding and colleagues from the university’s Innovation Center for Textile Science and Technology, cooling off a person’s body is much more efficient than cooling an entire room or building.
Various clothing and textiles have been designed to do just that, but most come with disadvantages, such as poor cooling capacity; large electricity consumption; complex, time-consuming manufacturing; and high cost.
The scientists hence designed their new material by electrospinning a polymer (polyurethane), a water-repelling version of the polymer (fluorinated polyurethane) and a thermally conductive filler (boron nitride nanosheets) into nanofibrous membranes.
These membranes repelled water from the outside, but had large enough pores to allow sweat to evaporate from the skin and air to circulate.
According to the Donghua team, the boron nitride nanosheets coated the polymer nanofibers, form a network that conducts heat from an inside source to the outside air.
In tests, the new material’s thermal conductivity was found to be higher than that of many other conventional or high-tech fabrics.
According to the scientists, the new membrane could also prove useful for solar energy collection, seawater desalination and thermal management of electronic devices.
Image and content: American Chemical Society