The University of Maryland creates a heat-regulating fabric

A smart fabric capable of heating our body when it is cold but also cooling it down when it is hot? As surprising as it may seem, this is the tremendous innovation revealed at the start of the year by American scientists from the University of Maryland.

What if dressing according to the temperature of the surrounding environment became obsolete? The idea may seem utopian but it could well and truly be on the point of becoming a reality, if an article in the journal Science is to be believed, which highlights the feat achieved by American academics: a fabric capable of reacting to our body’s temperature changes.

A bidirectional regulating fabric

Composed of polymer fibres covered in carbon nanotubes, the strands of yarn in this extraordinary fabric retract or dilate according to variations in heat. So, when the skin sweats, they become thinner to allow the infrared radiation given off by the body to pass through. On the contrary, when the body cools down, the yarn becomes thicker to keep heat inside. An instant transformation that the person wearing the garment in question cannot even detect. “The human body is a perfect radiator. It gives off heat quickly,” stated researcher Min Ouyang, a professor of physics at UMD and co-author of the article. “For all of history, the only way to regulate the radiator has been to take clothes off or put clothes on. But this fabric is a true bidirectional regulator.”

A host of textile applications

A technical revolution of this kind opens the door to a host of applications. The first and most obvious is without a doubt sports ready-to-wear. In fact, this invention is reminiscent of the one marketed by Reebok, the kit supplier having recently revealed a bra that tightens or relaxes depending on its wearer’s movements. Its secret? A gel with a changing texture incorporated directly into the fabric. The scientists are also planning to extend their invention to the conventional ready-to-wear sector, as well as the household linen domain, with sheets that are able to adapt to our level of heat. A comfortable night guaranteed.