Clothing inspired by plastic kitchen wrap is a thing, and it's actually kind of awesome
Researchers at Stanford University are trying to keep it cool — your body, that is. With global temperatures on the rise and climate change posing a very real threat, clothes that keep people feeling cool could be essential. The key to it, though, might just be something you’d never expect: plastic cling wrap.
According to Tech Times, material scientists in the Yi Cui lab have been modifying the clear plastic you’d typically use to keep food fresh and protected, and have developed a fabric that can cool the skin.
The science behind it is pretty awesome: like many existing fabrics on the market, it permits the evaporation of sweat to cool the body — but that’s not all. The fabric also enables body heat, in the form of infrared radiation, to escape from the fabric, too.
As published in Science, Cui and colleagues worked on nanoPE, or nanoporous polyethylene, to develop the textile using photonics, nanotechnology and chemistry. The variant of polyethylene used is opaque to visible light but transparent to infrared radiation, allowing body heat to escape.
The team also treated the textile with chemicals so that water vapor molecules could evaporate through the nanopores in the plastic- basically, this means that it’s breathable like a natural fiber.
When the scientists tested the material, they found it had a pretty significant level of cooling potential: when compared with cotton fabric, the plastic-wrap derived material made the skin’s surface cooler by 3.6 degrees Farenheit.
Wrote the researchers, “We processed the material to develop a textile that promotes effective radiative cooling while still having sufficient air permeability, water-wicking rate, and mechanical strength for wearability.”
While the textile is probably still a ways away from being actually used to make mass-produced clothing, clearly, the researchers sought out to make it as practical as possible. With it’s skin-cooling potential, it just might be: with clothes that keep us cool, we’d use less energy on things like air conditioning, and feel better outdoors in the increasingly warm summers, too.
We’re glad plastic cling wrap has more uses than food storage (well, that and kissing loved ones through it when skin-to-skin contact might kill them).