Scientists are currently working on a fabric that might be wearable in summer as well as during the winter. The material has the ability to alternate between being breathable and insulating.
Companies have already developed fabrics that switch from warm to cool when flipped inside out. The new fabric is going to adapt to the amount of sweat coming from the wearer. This material might be ideal for athletes and babies that are unable to articulate whether they are hot or cold.
The fabric is knitted from yarn that is composed out of many polymer fibers. These polymer fibers are coated in small carbon nanotubes, and the closer the nanotubes get, the better the fabric becomes at conducting the heat a person sheds.
In cooler, dry conditions, the fibers become loosely wound, and because of that, the fabric traps much of the heat radiating off the body. If the person starts sweating, the polymer fibers in the material constrict. This brings the threads closer and makes the material more breathable.
The material is being developed by a team of chemists helmed by YuHuang Wang from the University of Maryland in College Park. He and his colleagues realized that if they put the fabric in a room and increased the room’s humidity, the heat that passed through the material increased by 35 percent. Because of this dependence on the humidity in the air, the fabric also becomes less insulating during a cold and wet day. The person wearing the material does not even need to be sweating for this to occur. Because of this, the research team is working on a fabric that is able to respond directly to temperature changes. This is going to allow the material to consider body temperature levels, not only sweat levels.