Dynamic gating of infrared radiation in a textile

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Science  08 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6427, pp. 619-623
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau1217

A cloth that adapts to the heat

Textiles trap infrared radiation, which helps keep us warm in cold weather. Of course, in hot weather, this is less desirable. Zhang et al. constructed an infrared-adaptive textile composed of polymer fibers coated with carbon nanotubes. The yarn itself expanded and collapsed based on heat and humidity, which changed the spacing of the fibers. Wider fiber spacing allowed the textile to breathe but also altered the infrared emissivity of the textile. This allowed for better heat exchange under hot and wet conditions. The self-adjusting emissivity of the textile could help toward wearable thermal-management attire.

Science, this issue p. 619


The human body absorbs and loses heat largely through infrared radiation centering around a wavelength of 10 micrometers. However, neither our skin nor the textiles that make up clothing are capable of dynamically controlling this optical channel for thermal management. By coating triacetate-cellulose bimorph fibers with a thin layer of carbon nanotubes, we effectively modulated the infrared radiation by more than 35% as the relative humidity of the underlying skin changed. Both experiments and modeling suggest that this dynamic infrared gating effect mainly arises from distance-dependent electromagnetic coupling between neighboring coated fibers in the textile yarns. This effect opens a pathway for developing wearable localized thermal management systems that are autonomous and self-powered, as well as expanding our ability to adapt to demanding environments.

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