A team at the University of California has received a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency to research a temperature-regulating textile which they hope could reduce heating and air conditioning bills for homes.
Joseph Wang, professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego, says, “In cases where there are only one or two people in a large room, it’s not cost-effective to heat or cool the entire room. If you can do it locally, like you can in a car by heating just the car seat instead of the entire car, then you can save a lot of energy.”
The fabric will regulate temperature through a polymer- based textile. As the room gets cooler, the fabric will become thicker; when the room gets hotter, the fabric will become thinner.
Researchers are also designing the smart fabric to power itself. It will include rechargeable batteries, which will power the thermoelectrics, as well as biofuel cells that can harvest electrical power from human sweat.
The batteries, thermoelectrics and biofuel cells will be printed using the technology developed in Wang’s lab to make printable wearable devices. These parts will also be thin, stretchable and flexible to ensure that the fabric is not bulky or heavy.