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TORONTO — Researchers say they have succeeded in creating a synthetic version of polar bear fur that is not only lighter than cotton but warmer as well.
Three engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a two-layer fabric that not only molds a bear’s fur but also its black skin that helps it stay warm.
The researchers say their work, published April 5 in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, culminates in an 80-year quest to create a texture that mimics polar bear fur.
They say the fabric is already in development for commercial use.
“While our textiles really shine as outerwear on sunny days, the light heat-trapping structure works efficiently enough to imagine using existing internal lighting to heat the body directly,” said Wesley Viola, lead author of the paper, in a university news article published on The Guardian. Monday.
“By focusing energy resources on a ‘personal climate’ around the body, this approach can be much more sustainable than the status quo.”
Researchers say that the white fur of polar bears is effective at transmitting solar radiation towards their skin.
“But fur is only half of the equation,” said Trisha Andrew, senior author of the paper. The other half is the black skin of polar bears.
Andrew says the polar bear’s fur acts as a “natural optical fiber,” transmitting sunlight to the skin, which absorbs light and heats the bear.
At the same time, the fur also helps prevent the skin from radiating too much warmth, similar to a thick blanket that warms itself and then traps heat, the researchers say.
Synthetic fabric works in a similar way with a top layer of light conducting yarns to a bottom layer made of nylon and covered in a dark material called PEDOT, which heats up.
Researchers say a jacket using this material will be 30 percent lighter than another jacket made of cotton, but will still make the wearer more comfortable at temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius, as long as the sun is out.
Scientists say a Boston-based company called Soliyard has already begun producing fabric coated with this PEDOT material.
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