Stanford engineers have just made a big discovery that could have huge implications for energy use in the future.
Scientists at Stanford University have just done something amazing: they’ve created a brand new material that could utterly revolutionize clothing. It’s a cheap, plastic-based textile that could be woven into clothing and cool your body much more efficiently than is currently possible with either natural or synthetic fabrics.
THe findings, which were published int he journal Science, describe a new family of fabrics that could keep people cool when it is hot and there is no air conditioning, which could be huge in terms of saving energy. This clothing could be worn by people working in a building and the building wouldn’t have to use as much air conditioning, which would save a tremendous amount of energy.
The material essentially discharges heat in two ways, dropping the temperature of the wearer by nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit compared to cotton: it lets perspiration evaporate, and it allows body heat in the form of infrared radiation to pass through it.
“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.
“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.”
Researchers are looking to make it more inexpensive to produce.
“If you want to make a textile, you have to be able to make huge volumes inexpensively,” Cui said.