Keeping a person warm, cooled and therefore safe in extreme environmental conditions is no small matter. I speak from personal experience, as I have a lake cabin in northern Minnesota. The temperature has been known to hit -40°F. Don’t even think about the wind chill index at that temperature.
Of course, I don’t think about skiing or snowshoeing on those days, either, but I still have to get to the woodpile and shovel snow off the porch. For these tasks (or climbing Mount Everest), leaders in the outdoor apparel industry have partnered with textile manufacturers to develop amazing thermal control products for use in apparel. That’s big.
Thermal control in buildings is even “bigger,” and that’s what we’re talking about this month. Actually, we’re looking at the range of possibilities in applications and markets other than apparel, which have been made possible by new technologies that can be adapted from small scale (such as medical products) to large-scale uses (such as in building construction).
Combining advanced technologies is an exciting development in thermal control. Solar-powered electricity that can both supply heat and cool itself is one of those developments. Another is shape-shifting materials, recently announced by MIT researchers.
While some technologies are a ways away from commercialization, others are at that point and showing how practical – and economical – they can be. Bruce Wright’s feature “Thermal control: beyond apparel” provides more detail about these and other innovations. The world of industrial fabrics continues to expand with ingenious new interpretations of what a textile can be – and do.