Smart fabric

If you’re a parent, it’s like that at some point you have said something like this to your child: “I’m cold; go put a sweater on.” It can be frustrating to get kids to dress appropriately, but it can also be inconvenient to carry multiple layers in order to be prepared for changing conditions. A simple yet smart fabric could solve these problems.

We’ve written about projects from OtherLab before. This time, their designers have created fabric that automatically increases its insulation properties as temperatures change. The concept is fairly simple. Different layers expand and contract at different rates, in response to temperature changes. As the surroundings get colder, the layers pull on each other to create pockets of air, much like the pouches in a down coat. Air is actually an excellent insulator, so the these pockets result in a warmer garment. The fabric is made of familiar materials, including nylon, polyester, and polyolefin, so it has a familiar feel. In tests, their prototypes increased their measured thermal resistance from that of light office attire to more than heavy outdoor gear, over the span of about 20 degrees Celsius.

Not only could this allow fewer garments to serve in more conditions, it could also allow office buildings to be kept at lower temperatures in the winter. The passive fabric does not need any external source of power, so it could result in significant energy savings if adapted widely.