Wearable air con takes passive role in cooling

Heat stroke or exhaustion could be prevented with a so-called ‘wearable air conditioning’ system, an on-skin cooling device designed by engineers at the University of Missouri.

Wearable device achieves around 11 deg F of cooling to the human body during the daytime hours (Image: University of Missouri)

Beyond cooling, the university claims the device has health care applications such as the ability to monitor blood pressure, electrical activity of the heart and the level of skin hydration. The findings are detailed in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Engineers overcome passive cooling technology challenge

Unlike similar products in use today or other related concepts, this breathable and waterproof device can deliver personal air conditioning to a human body through passive cooling, a process that does not utilise electricity, such as a fan or pump, which researchers believe allows for minimal discomfort to the user.

“Our device can reflect sunlight away from the human body to minimise heat absorption, while simultaneously allowing the body to dissipate body heat, thereby allowing us to achieve around 11o F of cooling to the human body during the daytime hours,” said corresponding author Zheng Yan, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering. “We believe this is one of the first demonstrations of this capability in the emerging field of on-skin electronics.”

The device could help prevent heat stroke claims the team Image: Antonioguillem via stock.adobe.com

The device is currently a small wired patch, and researchers said in a statement that it will take one to two years to design a wireless version. They also hope to one day take their technology and apply it to ‘smart’ clothing.

“Eventually, we would like to take this technology and apply it to the development of smart textiles,” Yan said. “That would allow for the device’s cooling capabilities to be delivered across the whole body. Right now, the cooling is only concentrated in a specific area where the patch is located. We believe this could potentially help reduce electricity usage and also help with global warming.”