Super-Insulated Clothing: Will Indoor Heating Become Redundant?

 Comsidering that 47% of global energy is spent on indoor heating, and 42% of that specifically for residential heating, the introduction of clothes that have been dip-coated in a silver nanowire (AgNW) solution that is highly  radiation-insulating could be an economic godsend. These clothes are so warm that they are certain to greatly reduce and in some cases even eliminate the need for home heating.


Super Insulated Clothing: Source: Treehugger.comSuper Insulated Clothing: Source:


Who created these amazing textiles?

A new strategy called 'personal thermal management', which focuses on heating people rather than buildings, has been demonstrated by a team of researchers at Stanford University and published as a paper on AgNW-coated textiles in a recent issue of Nano Letters. Professor Yi Cui along with PHD candidate, Po-Chun Hsu, headed the research team. Up until now, most applications emphasized improving building insulation, but there is still much energy waste due to the focus on heating both empty space and inanimate objects.

What are the advantages of super-insulated clothing?

Personal thermal management is concerned with heating people and only people. AgNW-coated clothing reflects over 90% of an individual's body heat back to its original source. This percentage is much higher than even the warmest wool sweater as the average cothing material redirects only about 20% of body heat. Researchers have demonstrated that clothing dipped in this special solution of metallic nanowires accomplishes this by providing both passive insulation and active heating when they are connected to an external power source.


Super Insulated Sweater: Source: Shutterstock.comSuper Insulated Sweater: Source:


The porous structure of the nanowires renders the new AgNW-coated clothing breathable with a texture that is virtually identical to normal clothing. This is possible due to the small amount of AgNW solution that  is required to achieve high reflectivity. AgNW-coated clothing can also provide Joule heating if connected to a battery. (This is the process by which the passage of an electrical current through a conductor releases heat.)

Super Insulated Clothing Diagram: Source:phys.orgSuper Insulated Clothing Diagram:


Calculating how much energy a person could save by wearing this super insulated clothing is difficult to determine as there are many variables, including: outdoor temperature, length of the cold season and the size of the home in question. A rough estimate compiled by researchers indicates a savings of 8.5 kWh of heating energy per person per days, or 1,000 kWh per year, assuming that the heating system operates  for four months per year. The energy saved is the same  as what could be produced by a 2-square-meter solar panel, but the clothing would be far cheaper to buy and maintain..

The future of super-insulated clothing

Keeping people warm without heating anything else is a simple and yet entirely innovative idea. Lifestyle changes are inevitable along with the passage of time and necessity. Having the freedom of motion while still being insulated as if wearing full winter gear has a definite appeal to the outdoor enthusiast. There is, however, something warm and wonderful for everyone with the implementation of this high tech innovation.

Closing thoughts on winter and cold temperatures:

I'm staying in shape this winter by wearing enough layers to be constantly sweating. ~ Unknown

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