The U.S. Department of Energy is funding research into clothing that can change its thermal properties to adapt to the environment, as well as the body of the wearer.
Alon Gorodetsky's team at the University of California, Irvine, is looking to control radiative heat, and has drawn inspiration from the way squid reflect visible wavelengths of light, using a cocktail of proteins in their skin.
Meanwhile, Jintu Fan's team at Cornell University is working to control the circulation of warm and cold air through a network of minuscule tubes embedded in an undershirt.
In addition, Roy Kornbluh and colleagues at SRI International are focusing on the way the body's hairless areas shed heat. Kornbluh's team is building prototype shoes that incorporate a heat pump made from a type of plastic that is very good at transferring heat. The heat pump enables the wearer to pull heat out of their body through the sole of the foot when it is hot, and to push heat in when it is cold.
Up to now, clothing that controls heat has appeared in only bulky or uncomfortable garments for limited applications such as military or aerospace, but the Energy Department's ARPA-E research arm has invested $30 million to make the clothing comfortable to wear every day.
From New Scientist
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