Researchers have used the thermal properties and flexibility of graphene to create smart adaptive clothing which can lower the body temperature of the wearer.
Scientists from Manchester University’s National Graphene Institute have created a prototype garment to demonstrate dynamic thermal radiation control within a piece of clothing. The development also opens the door to new applications such as, interactive infrared displays and covert infrared communication on textile.
The human body radiates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves in the infrared spectrum. In a hot climate it is desirable to use the full extent of the infrared radiation to lower the body temperature, and that can be achieved by using infrared-transparent textiles. Conversely, infrared-blocking coverings minimise the energy loss from the body.
The collaborative team of scientists demonstrated the dynamic transition between two opposite states by electrically tuning the infrared emissivity of the graphene layers integrated onto textiles.
The research published in Nano Letters demonstrates how smart optical textile technology can change its thermal visibility. The technology uses graphene layers to control of thermal radiation from textile surfaces.
In a statement, research leader Prof Coskun Kocabas, said: “Ability to control the thermal radiation is a key necessity for several critical applications such as temperature management of the body in excessive temperature climates. Thermal blankets are a common example used for this purpose. However, maintaining these functionalities as the surroundings heats up or cools down has been an outstanding challenge.
“The successful demonstration of the modulation of optical properties on different forms of textile can leverage the ubiquitous use of fibrous architectures and enable new technologies operating in the infrared and other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum for applications including textile displays, communication, adaptive space suits, and fashion”.
This study built on the same group’s previous research using graphene to create thermal camouflage which would dupe infrared cameras. The new research can also be integrated into materials such as cotton and to demonstrate, the team developed a prototype product within a t-shirt allowing the wearer to project coded messages invisible to the naked eye but readable by infrared cameras.
“The next step for this area of research is to address the need for dynamic thermal management of earth-orbiting satellites,” said Kocabas. “Satellites in orbit experience excesses of temperature, when they face the sun, and they freeze in the earth’s shadow. Our technology could enable dynamic thermal management of satellites by controlling the thermal radiation and regulate the satellite temperature on demand.”