A new dual-use fabric may be the answer to having a garment that serves equally well in summer and winter wardrobes. The new fabric alternates between insulating and providing ventilation by responding to the wearer’s perspiration. Study co-author YuHuang Wang, a chemist at the University of Maryland in College Park, sees the fabric being applied to sportswear or clothing for babies.
According to a recent article in Science News, the fabric is knitted from yarn made of polymer fibers coated in carbon nanotubes. Under dry, cool conditions, the fibers are loosely knit and the fabric traps much of the heat radiating from the wearer. When the person starts to sweat, the moisture causes the polymer fibers in the yarn to constrict. As a result, the carbon nanotubes on the fibers are closer together, allowing heat to escape and making the material more breathable.
Because the fabric depends on moisture to constrict, on a humid day, even if the wearer isn’t sweating, the fabric could be less insulating.
Wang envisions future applications that include yarn fibers made with materials that respond to temperature changes, creating fabric to accommodate a person’s skin temperature as well as perspiration.