Can Our Clothes Help Us Cope With Global Warming?

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By Apurba Banerjee, Ph.D., Chief Scientist at brrr°

Our planet is getting hotter. Much, much hotter.

July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, with unprecedented temperatures in many cities across the globe. Polar sea ice melted to record lows, and Arctic sea ice was almost 20% below average.

It was the 415th straight month of above-average global temperatures, and that trend shows no signs of stopping. Heat-related deaths, hospitalizations and other illnesses are also on the rise.

Our clothes are exacerbating problem. They trap heat and moisture, they don’t allow air to flow through, and they often inhibit movement. None of this supports modern lifestyles and consumer needs.

What if our clothing could actually help us cope with global warming?

Climate change presents an enormous opportunity for the textile industry, which should be embracing these challenges by spending more research and development dollars and devoting more brainpower to finding creative solutions.

We invest significantly in research and development that advances the cooling capabilities of textiles, and we are excited about new technologies that are in the pipeline.

We’re working hard on new methods that build upon our patents for putting natural cooling mineral blends right into the yarn of fabric, and combining that with active wicking and rapid drying to create cooling textiles that outperform other products on the market.

Nanotechnology and sophisticated dispersion techniques will play an important role in next generation cooling fabrics, and we look forward to exploring other techniques and technologies from other industries to find out whether they can be applied to textiles.

We’re also intrigued by research being conducted by scientists all over the world on things such as ants in the Sahara desert whose are covered in fine hairs that reflect sunlight to avoid overheating in the hottest temperatures on Earth (up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, or 70 degrees Celsius!).

Meanwhile, researchers at Stanford are developing low-cost nanoporous polyethylene that has infrared radiative cooling properties and could be turned into clothing that cools the human body.

If ant hairs and plastic can lead to new innovations in cooling textiles, there’s no telling where the imaginative ideas and research goes from there.

One thing is certain: we look forward to participating in the industry’s collective leaps and bounds toward the future of cool.

About the author: Apurba Banerjee, PhD, is the Chief Scientist at Atlanta-based brrr°, which develops cooling textile technologies and licenses them to retailers and manufacturers. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in polymer, fiber and textile sciences from the University of Georgia, and she holds a Bachelor of Technology in textile and fiber processing from the Institute of Chemical Technology (formerly known as UDCT). She has been a member of AATCC since 2012, she serves as Vice Chair of the C3 Technical Committee on Research, Chair of the Yarn and Other Substrate Committee, and she received the AATCC Future Leaders Award in 2019.