Academics at Shinshu University in Japan report that they have developed a new method of integrating phase change materials (PCMs) within fabrics that could heat and cool the wearer depending on the environment.
Hideaki Morikawa, corresponding author of an article published in ACS Nano, told The Indian Express, “This fabric can potentially be used as a personal thermal management system to help people maintain a comfortable temperature. It can also be used in non-wearable applications, for example, as an external packing component to help regulate the temperatures of electronics and batteries.”
Occupations in many industries require workers to shift between vastly different temperatures as part of their work. Apart from making their work uncomfortable, such temperature shifts can also cause workers to fall ill. Clothing with PCM functionality could absorb heat in hot conditions and release it when it gets cooler and vice versa. But up to this point, these materials could not adjust to meet practical requirements.
Morikawa and his team turned to a method called coaxial electrospinning to spin a nanofiber with a PCM encapsulated at its center, then coupled this PCM-encapsulated material with two other technologies: photoresponsive materials and an electrothermal conductive coating. The photoresponsive material absorbs heat from direct sunlight and the electrothermal coating converts excess heat into electricity. Combining three different technologies expands the range of environments where it potentially can be used. The researchers point out, that “there is a long way to go before large-scale production.”