What would it be like if at a high intensity Martial Art training session, your uniform, instead of becoming soaked with sweat and getting stuck to your thighs and torso, kept you comfortable while providing a cooling effect? How much more efficient would your training be with an outfit that not only makes you feel good but also takes away the burden of overheating and discomfort.
One may suggest that heating or cooling the training hall would fix this problem but imagine a fabric that will keep your body at a comfortable temperature — regardless of how hot or cold it actually is. There have been many approaches in the past aiming to produce a cooling effect to the body by adding an active cooler worn on the back of the neck or implementing an innovative advanced material that leaves you Cooler, Drier, Longer in the hottest conditions (CHILLSTITCH™ technology – new Cooling Towels and Multi-Wrap). However, all of the approaches have a limited time of action and diminish the cooling effect with time.
The researchers from the University of California, San Diego, received $2,6M grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency for the project called ATTACH (Adaptive Textiles Technology with Active Cooling and Heating). The project lead by a distinguished professor of nanoengineering Joseph Wang aims to design a smart fabric that will regulate the temperature of the wearer’s skin — keeping it at 93° F (approximately 34°C) — by adapting to temperature changes in the room or the wearer’s activity. When the room gets cooler, the fabric will become thicker. When the room gets hotter or the activity of the person wearing the smart outfit increases, the fabric will become thinner, using polymers inside the smart fabric that expand in the cold and shrink in the heat.
93°F or 34°C is the average comfortable skin temperature for most people. The clothing will incorporate printable “thermoelectrics” into specific spots of the smart fabric to regulate the temperature on “hot spots” — such as areas on the back and underneath the feet, under the armpits etc. that tend to get hotter than other parts of the body when a person is active.
The researchers are also designing the smart fabric to power itself, using rechargeable batteries to power the thermoelectrics and biofuel cells that can harvest electrical power from human sweat. The 3-D printable wearable parts will be thin, stretchable, and flexible to ensure that the smart fabric is not bulky or heavy. The material will also be washable, stretchable, bendable and lightweight.
If such smart fabric can be incorporate into Martial Arts training outfit it may result not only on creating a more comfortable training external environment but also may be able to utilize more efficiently the energy expanded during the training to charge mobile phones and other electronic devices while participating in training.
Although it is the beginning of the smart outfit project we will follow and report its progress as this smart fabric may revolutionize not only the textile industry but when utilized for making martial arts outfits may improve the performance of the practitioners. We also hope that it will look attractive and fashionable.
(Adopted from UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, “Engineers win grant to make smart clothes for personalized cooling and heating”, June 1, 2015.)