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A team of researchers from The University of Manchester's National Graphene Institute has engineered smart adaptive clothing that can lower the body temperature of the wearer in hot climates. They have achieved this by harnessing the many thermal properties and flexibility of graphene.
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"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," said Professor Coskun Kocabas, who led the research.
A long history with graphene
The University of Manchester has a long history with graphene. It was in 2004 at the University that one-atom thick graphene was first isolated and explored. Today, its potential applications are limitless including thermal wearables.
"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," added Kocabas.
This research built on the same teams' previous work using graphene to create thermal camouflage that could fool infrared cameras. The new fabric however has one key advantage: it can be integrated into existing mass-manufacture textile materials such as cotton.
To demonstrate this quality, the team engineered a prototype within a t-shirt that allows the wearer to project invisible coded messages that are readable by infrared cameras.
"We believe that our results are timely showing the possibility of turning the exceptional optical properties of graphene into novel enabling technologies. The demonstrated capabilities cannot be achieved with conventional materials."
Use in satellites
"The next step for this area of research is to address the need for dynamic thermal management of earth-orbiting satellites. 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." said Kocabas.