Nanotechnology could revolutionize fashion – by making climate control clothing that can automatically warm up or cool down for the wearer’s comfort.
Scientists have developed tiny “nanocapsules,” made of a starchy outer shell and filled with a waxy substance, that can be woven into the fabric. The nanocapsules are invisible to the naked eye, but can provide powerful temperature control.
That’s because, as the wearer’s body heats up, the wax inside each capsule melts and absorbs the heat. Then, as the body cools down, the wax solidifies, releasing the stored heat.
“It can be used for outdoor clothing, sportswear and everyday clothing,” Dr. Carla Silva, who created the fabric, told the Daily Mail. “It could especially improve the comfort of those less able to control their body temperatures, such as young children and the elderly.”
Those with chronic illnesses or spinal cord injuries that affect the autonomic nervous system may also have problems with body temperature regulation. Clothing using the team’s nanocapsules could help.
The wax inside the nanocapsules melts and re-solidifies, but it cannot escape the starchy exterior. It works by mimicking the sweating process. As sweat evaporates, it helps to disperse heat.
Silva, a lead researcher at the Centre for Nanotechnology and Smart Materials in Portugal, helped to develop a similar nanocapsule fabric that will treat eczema earlier this year. She and her team hope to adapt the technology to also be able to treat bacterial infections and other skin disorders.
The nanocapsules can be chemically bonded to fabric, and are resistant to washing.
Silva and her team are working with Devan Chemicals, a Belgian company, to develop the nanocapsule technology for both the climate control clothing and the skin treatment.
Additional funding for the team’s research was provided by the European Union.
By Kyla Cathey, Earth.com staff writer