3D Printed Fabric Could Help Keep Wearers Cooler

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If you live in a hot climate, or even one that just experiences hot periods, there are few really good arguments for putting clothes on. Trying to maintain your metaphorical cool as sweat is pouring down your back and your core temperature reaches critical overload can be nigh on impossible. In addition, poor temperature controls in interior environments can be torturous when wearing office appropriate clothing. Rather than developing elaborate fantasies about why your boss insists that it is cold when you can clearly see tropical lifeforms thriving in the corners of your office, you might find hope in research at the University of Maryland on a thermal regulation textile that might be the first step towards developing clothing that actually cools the wearer.

These pioneering researchers, led by Liangbing Hu, have published the results of their studies in the latest issue of ACS Nano. The textile itself is created from a nano-fiber composite made up of Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) and boron nitride and then turned into fibers for weaving by a 3D printer. The woven fabric has a high level of thermal conductivity, meaning that it lets body heat pass right through it, thereby cooling its wearer.

The innovative nature of this textile was explained by Dr. Hu:

“This is the first time that a highly thermally conductive textile is 3D printed with excellent mechanical strength and greatly enhanced thermal conductivity, which can cool the body significantly, especially for office settings for energy savings. We are carrying out more research to further improve the performance through materials design and also working on scalable demonstrations using 3D printing.”

In addition to keeping the wearer cooler and therefore improving their overall satisfaction, something that has been repeatedly demonstrated to benefit corporate bottom lines, these textiles could conceivably lower the amount of conditioning that office air needs to receive in order to be comfortable for employees. This, in turn, reduces the amount of money that these businesses must spend on electricity and, thereby, the carbon footprint of those businesses.

This is not the first time that efforts to aid in cooling have come from the realm of apparel and materials science. Previous efforts have seen the integration of cooling packs directly into clothing or the development of wicking fabrics, such as those used in sports apparel, but the development of the thermal cooling fabric could have wider applications in terms of types of apparel use. Studies undertaken with the textile demonstrate a thermal conductivity more than two times that of regular cotton fabrics.

Further research should hone the heat releasing aspects of the textile and allow experimentation with apparel design to work towards possibly bringing it to market. While many of our readers may be heading into their colder months, I’m writing from Mexico and have already fantasized an entire wardrobe to keep me cool and dignified. Until then, I’ll be standing in front of the fan, hoping.

Three-Dimensional Printed Thermal Regulation Textiles” was authored by Tingting Gao, Zhi Yang, Chaoji Chen, Yiju Li, Kun Fu, Jiaqi Dai, Emily M. Hitz, Hua Xie, Boyang Liu, Jianwei Song, Bao Yang, and Liangbing Hu.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: Phys.org / Images:  Gao et al. ©2017 American Chemical Society]

 

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