Scientists have invented a smart replacement for air-conditioners

19 Januari 2020

When it comes to climate change, air-conditioners are a mess, generating plenty of carbon through their use. But there is a new device that might just change that.

An invention reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides a personal cooling experience that might not only have us rethink personal comfort but also help save lives.

As heat waves get stronger and the heat island effect in cities make things even worse, we might opt for wearable elastomer substrate that can cool the whole body of the person wearing it with no adverse environmental effects. It does so by reflecting sunlight from the body, preventing it from absorbing the heat. During daytime, such passive cooling could be as much as by 6°C. 

If this, along with other discoveries in climate-friendly cooling, is scaled up, we could reduce electricity consumption by 10% globally, without sacrificing personal comfort. Moreover, if we learn to fine-tune the capacities of our clothes to a particular temperature, this might mean even more personal comfort.

The researchers from the University of Missouri who invented the material made sure it is fit for real-life situations. Integrated into porous rubber material, the device is cheap to produce and easy to scale up, which could make a case for rapid adoption. This could save thousands of lives every year.

The authors point out that the device requires no electricity, is waterproof and allows the skin to breathe. Thanks to the specific size of the pores within the material, the body can share its heat with the environment but don’t expect any to come in. 

The device’s capacity to integrate electronics that monitor blood pressure and heart rate makes it a godsend for smart health gadget enthusiasts and fans of smart textiles. Meanwhile, recyclability, softness, and flexibility make it a great fit for the booming sustainable fashion market.

The researchers have high hopes about their invention. “We believe this is one of the first demonstrations of this capability in the emerging field of on-skin electronics” says Zheng Yan, an author of the paper who is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri.

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