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Sep 04, 2016 10:24 AM EDT

Stay Cool In Summer: Stanford University Researchers Creates Cooling Clothing Material

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Stanford University researchers have developed a low-cost plastic clothing material that can cool the skin without external help. The material is a textile that promotes effective radiative cooling but still has enough air permeability, water-wicking rate and mechanical strength for wearability.

According to Stanford University's official website, this low-cost, plastic-based textile is able to cool the human body more efficiently than what's currently possible with the natural or synthetic fabrics in clothes today. The researchers claim that this new family of fabrics could become the solution to keeping people cool in hot climates without air conditioning.

"If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy," Yi Cui, said. He is an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford and of photon science at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

The new cooling clothing material has two ways to make the wearer feel cooler by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit. First, it cools by allowing perspiration to evaporate through the material which is already something that ordinary fabrics can do.

Second, it provides a revolutionary cooling mechanism by allowing body heat, emitted as infrared radiation, to pass through the plastic textile. Ordinary clothes and blankets keep us warm by trapping infrared heat emissions close to the body. With this new technology, heat can be pass through clothes and help keep us cool even during the hottest summer day.

The Stanford University researchers combined nanotechnology, photonics and chemistry to give polyethylene, the clear plastic used as kitchen wrap, additional characteristics that allows thermal radiation, air and water vapor to pass through. Plus, it is opaque to visible light.

It was revealed that cotton fabric made the skin surface 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the cooling textile. This is believed to result to reductions in energy consumption as wearers will no longer feel the need to turn on fans and AC units.

The researchers are still continuing to develop the material by adding more colors, textures as well as cloth-like characteristics. According to TIME, the scientists are hopeful that the manufacturing process for the new cooling material will become more efficient and less costly in the years to come.

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