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A fabric that keeps you cool in the heat and warm in the cold

A sample of the new fabric, whose weave changes depending on the temperature and humidity

Faye Levine/University of Maryland

Researchers at the University of Maryland in the USA and Xiamen University in China have developed a high-tech fabric capable of altering its structure depending on heat and humidity, thus helping to maintain a stable body temperature. The fabric is made of cellulose triacetate filaments coated with carbon nanotubes. As the temperature and humidity increase, the fibers contract and the weave of the fabric becomes more open. The larger gaps allow sweat to evaporate and facilitate heat loss. As the carbon nanotubes get closer to one another, the fabric is able to emit more infrared radiation and lose more heat (Science, February 8). In a cold, dry environment, the fibers become larger and the weave becomes tighter, closing the spaces and helping to retain body heat. The fabric can be washed and dyed and has already been patented. “We are interested in marketing the product,” researcher Min Ouyang, from the University of Maryland, told the journal El País. He added that the researchers plan to improve the design and performance of the fabric, potentially for use in sportswear. Another possibility would be to use the technology to create paint capable of improving energy efficiency in buildings. Other technological materials that facilitate heat loss already exist, often by reflecting light or allowing infrared radiation to escape. The researchers state, however, that this is the first solution able to self-regulate, storing heat when it is cold and losing it when the temperature rises.