Engineers have won a grant to design fabric that could keep the body at a comfortable temperature even in extreme weather.
The $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) will go towards development of the "smart clothing," the University of California, San Diego reported. The project, dubbed ATTACH (Adaptive Textiles Technology with Active Cooling and Heating), could even lead to a 15 percent reduction in energy use by buildings and homes.
"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," said Joseph Wang, distinguished professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego. "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 material will be designed to keep the wearers skin at 93 degrees Fahrenheit by adapting to temperature changes in the room. As the room heats up the fabric will get thinner, and vice versa, by means of expandable polymers.
"Regardless if the surrounding temperature increases or decreases, the user will still feel the same without having to adjust the thermostat," Wang said.
The fabric will also be self-powered thanks to rechargeable batteries that drive thermoelectrics and biofuel cells that can harvest power from human sweat. The material and all of its parts can be printed in a lab setting.
"We are aiming to make the smart clothing look and feel as much like the clothes that people regularly wear. It will be washable, stretchable, bendable and lightweight. We also hope to make it look attractive and fashionable to wear," Wang concluded.