New Breathable Fabric Adjusts to Skin Moisture

A new knitted fabric makes wearers more comfortable by adjusting to their sweat levels. YuHuang Wang, a chemist at the University of Maryland in College Park, has been working on this project with fellow colleagues. The fabric’s unique composition and behavior make it even more versatile than other fabrics currently in this niche market. Additionally, the applications for it are far-reaching.


How the Fabric Works

The adaptable fabric is made of knitted material. The yarn used was carefully crafted to be humidity-responsive. Depending on how much a person is sweating, the fabric can become more breathable or more insulating. These characteristics make this material ideal for sportswear because it stays comfortable as the wearer works up a sweat. Another potential application is in baby clothing. Because the fabric adapts automatically, unlike other versions in the market that have to be turned inside out, babies can enjoy greater comfort even when they cannot express that they are either too hot or too cold.

The yarn used in this dual-use fabric is made up of polymer fibers coated in carbon nanotubes. When it is cool and dry on the wearer’s skin, the fibers become loose. Body heat is trapped inside the fabric as the material becomes more insulating. On the other hand, when it is hotter, the fabric responds to the sweat and increased skin moisture by the nanotubes coming together. The closer these are, the better the fabric conducts heat emitted from the body. This means that body heat can escape, and the material becomes more breathable.

These findings are published in a recent edition of Science. The researchers found that exposing their fabric to moisture in a controlled chamber increased how much heat could be passed through is by as much as 35%. This fabric could be used in clothing to be worn both in summer and in winter. The team hopes to create a fabric that is temperature sensitive as well.


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