Scientists make solar-powered clothing that works like personal air conditioning

Andrew Griffin
Friday 15 December 2023 18:48 GMT
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Scientists have made solar-powered smart clothing that works like personal air conditioning, they say.

The system uses a flexible solar cell and an electronic device, which together create clothing that allows the body to adapt to changes in the ambient temperature, they say.

Traditional clothing aimed at keeping people hot or cold could eventually be difficult to wear amid climate change, the authors note. But it could also be dangerous in even more extreme conditions, like outer space or on other planets.

As such, clothing that can quickly accommodate both extremely hot and extremely cold conditions could be vital to those exploring difficult environments.

In the new work, scientists say that the system could be integrated into conventional clothing. Once it is added in, the device can provide 10.1 degrees Celsius of cooling, but also keep it 3.2 degrees warmer than bare skin alone.

That means that the system can keep people within the comfortable thermal zone of 32-36 degrees, even when the outside temperature varies between 12.5 degrees and 37.6 degrees.

It is also efficient, the authors say, providing 24 hours of use from just 12 hours of sunlight.

The technology “opens many possibilities for developing actively controlled, self-powered and wearable localised thermal-management systems and expanding human adaptation to harsh environments”, researchers away from the new technology write in a related article published alongside it.

“It is possible to imagine a future of all-weather thermal management that is not limited by an energy supply and where extra collected energy might even power electronic devices under special conditions.”

The new work is described in a new paper, ‘Self-sustaining personal all-day thermoregulatory clothing using only sunlight’, published today in the journal Science.

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