Wearable gadgets are making clothes smarter all the time, but one of the most basic functions you’d want in a garment – the ability to warm you up or cool you down as needed – is still frustratingly elusive. Now, researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have developed a new material that senses how warm a person’s body is and automatically adjusts how much heat it traps or releases.
One of the easiest ways to regulate your body temperature is just to put on or take off layers. But previous work in smarter clothing has led to different solutions, such as a reversible jacket that was cooling on one side and warming on the other, so you could turn it inside out as needed. A higher-tech attempt to fix the problem was a “robotic” jacket that used machine learning algorithms to judge how hot or cold a person was and open or close vents accordingly.
The UMD fabric seems like a much more elegant solution. Its creators say clothes made of the stuff would be able to automatically react to infrared radiation, which is the human body’s main way of releasing heat, and let it pass through to the outside air.