Nanowire Clothing Could Help You Stay Warm and Save on Energy

Nanowire Clothing Could Help You Stay Warm and Save on Energy

Highly-insulated clothing could help you not only stay warm, but cut down on energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

As I’m writing this, I’m wearing fleece pyjamas, a sweater, a hoodie, and I’m tucked in a blanket so tight it’s like being wrapped in sausage casing. Why? Well, as you may have noticed, it’s effing cold outside – and since turning on my vintage electric rads will lead to an epic hydro bill, I’ve settled on the sausage casing approach.

But it’s looking like we’ll soon be able to stay warm and save on energy without wearing our entire wardrobe (“Hi, I’m Chandler. Could I be wearing any more clothes?”). Scientists have developed a nanowire coating for clothes that generates heat by trapping our body heat more effectively than our current outfits. Not only would this help us save some serious coin, but cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. Snoopy dance, anyone?

Most strategies to reduce indoor heating costs focus on improving how buildings are insulated, such as upgrading the quality of the insulation itself or installing low-emissivity windows. Regardless of these upgrades, many of us are still guilty of wasting energy by heating empty spaces and inanimate objects for the sake of convenience.

A team of researchers led by Professor Yi Cui and PhD student Po-Chun Hsu at Stanford University decided to do things a little differently: Instead of focusing on heating our surroundings, they focused on a new strategy called “personal thermal management,” where we heat ourselves instead. The study, which was published in a recent issue of the journal Nano Letters, reveals that clothing dipped in a solution of metallic nanowires (AgNWs), can help a person stay warm to the point of eliminating the need to heat their home at all. (Sign. Me. Up.)

The best part about the AgNW-coated clothing is that it reflects over 90 percent of a person’s body heat back to the individual, as opposed to our clothing now, which only reflects back about 20 percent of our body heat. The clothing can also provide Joule heating if connected to an electricity source, such as a battery. Researchers found that as little as 0.9 V can raise the clothing temp to 38 °C, which is 1 °C higher than the human body temp of 37 °C.

Since such a small amount of the solution is needed to achieve the highest level of warmth, the nanowire clothing would feel practically identical to normal clothing, making it a convenient and cost-effective way to stay warm. You also wouldn’t have to treat it any differently than you do your regular clothing: The researchers found the clothing maintained its electrical properties after multiple wash cycles.

How much you’d save on energy varies depending on how cold it is outside, how long the winter season is, and how big your home is, but the researchers calculated an estimated savings of about 1,000 kilowatt hours per person per year – which is about how much electricity an average U.S. home consumes in one month.

Do tell: Will you be shopping for nanowire clothing to stay warm?

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Image: Woman in winter photo via Shutterstock

Krissy Brady

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?). You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (you know, if you want).