Researchers at the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centre are developing a new high-tech fabric that heat up when powered and that capture sweat.
Using a network of thin nanowires, the scientists are developing a set of gloves that can be heated up to 37˚C, using only the power output equivalent of a typical watch battery.
High-tech fabric contains silver mesh (silver nanowires or ‘AgNW’) that could be heated to keep soldiers warm, while a hydrogel layer would absorb sweat.
Scientists are pursuing the ways to modify hand gear to deal with that extreme cold weather. The invention got inspired by research led by Yi Cui at Stanford University.
Much of the Army’s cold-weather hand gear was designed more than 30 years ago, so soldiers often opt to buy winter gloves at retail stores, researcher Paola D’Angelo said.
But even this modern gear isn’t enough to prevent paratroopers from losing feeling in their hands and feet when they parachute to earth in arctic conditions.
“That’s problematic if soldiers have to operate weapons as soon as they land,” D’Angelo noted. “So we want to pursue this fundamental research to see if we can modify hand wear for that extreme cold weather.”
D’Angelo and her colleagues are working on incorporating heat-transmitting silver nanowires into fabrics such as polyester and cotton-nylon amalgams.
They report that applying the low-voltage output of a watch battery to the augmented textiles raises its temperature by around 36 degrees Celsius in under a minute.
D’Angelo and her team will also incorporate an absorbent hydrogel (polyethylene glycol or poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), ensuring sweat is rapidly removed.
These fabrics could also conceivably make their way to consumer clothing in the future.
D’Angelo and coworkers will also investigate how the silver mesh and hydrogel interact with each other.
The researchers presented their results at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).