What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your electric bill and carbon footprint?
Engineers have found a cost-effective way to make thin, durable heating patches by using intense pulses of light to fuse tiny silver wires with polyester. Their heating performance is nearly 70 percent higher than similar patches created by other researchers, according to a study in Scientific Reports.
They are inexpensive, can be powered by coin batteries and are able to generate heat where the human body needs it since they can be sewed on as patches.
"This is important in the built environment, where we waste lots of energy by heating buildings - instead of selectively heating the human body," said the senior author.
Personal thermal management, which focuses on heating the human body as needed, is an emerging potential solution. Such patches may also someday help warm anyone who works or plays outdoors.
The engineers created highly efficient, flexible, durable and inexpensive heating patches by using "intense pulsed-light sintering" to fuse silver nanowires - thousands of times thinner than a human hair - to polyester fibers, using pulses of high-energy light. The process takes 300 millionths of a second, according to the study.
When compared with the current state of the art in thermal patches, the creation generates more heat per patch area and is more durable after bending, washing and exposure to humidity and high temperature.
Next steps include seeing if this method can be used to create other smart fabrics, including patch-based sensors and circuits. The engineers also want to determine how many patches would be needed and where they should be placed on people to keep them comfortable while reducing indoor energy consumption.
Sewing high-tech heating patches to clothes to keep you warm
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