New plastic clothing material could keep people cool

American researchers have created a low-cost textile made of a plastic base that could cool the body when woven into clothing.

The engineers suggested in the US journal Science that the textile could become a way to keep people living in hot climates cool without using air conditioning.

“If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy,” said Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of photon science at Stanford.

Scientists blended nanotechnology, photonics and chemistry to develop the material, which cools the wearer in two ways.

Like cotton, the textile allows sweat to evaporate through the material, but the new development allows it to also let through heat the body gives off as infrared radiation.

The latter is a characteristic of polyethylene, the clear, clingy plastic already used as kitchen wrap. The material therefore, is known as “nanoporous polyethylene”, (or nanoPE for short).

All objects — including our bodies — discharge heat as infrared radiation in the form of invisible light wavelengths.

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