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Brief Published: 19 Sep 2016

Cooling Clothing: Material Innovation

Computer rendering of the polyethylene textile nanostructure

Furthering material advancements in the sports and medical sectors, researchers at Stanford University, California have developed a new fabric that keeps skin cooler than the natural and synthetic materials currently available.

While existing workout clothes provide cooling effects by releasing the moisture caused by the wearer's sweat, the new development doesn't require perspiration to trigger the fabric's cooling action. Instead, it allows body heat to pass through the layers of punctured fabric independently. By modifying domestic cling film with a series of chemical treatments, researchers were able to endow the plastic-based textile with additional properties. The treated fabric allows thermal radiation, air and water vapour to pass right through, while its unique pore-sized perforations enable the free flow of more than 95% of the body heat that's emitted as infrared radiation.

The scope for hardworking materials is continuously growing, with sports brands in particular striving for technically progressive innovations. Ahead of this summer's Rio Olympics, US sportswear brand Under Armour developed cooling technology borrowed from Nasa to regulate athletes' body temperatures. The patented CoolSwift technology was designed with a printed micro texture on its inner lining to divert sweat away from the skin, while a binding agent within the fabric helped to absorb and store heat energy.

For more on material innovations in sportswear, see Rio Olympics 2016: Sportswear Innovations and Condom Material: Adapted for Sportswear.