Cooling Fabrics Fight Climate Change, As Well As Sweat

November 17, 2020 | Elizabeth Witherspoon

Duke engineers are developing comfortable textiles that reduce demand for air conditioning

A firefighter facing in the Ferguson wildfire

Photo by USFS Region 5.

Clothes that keep you cool aren’t just for exercising — or coping with menopausal hot flashes. They actually have an important role in combatting climate change, according to Po-Chun Hsu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University.

Po-Chun Hsu

Anyone trapped in a pre-pandemic conference or classroom when the air conditioning wasn’t lowered to account for the collective body heat of the group can relate. In a departure from simply improving on the ability of fabrics to wick away moisture and cool us individually through evaporation, Hsu and his research group are reinventing the whole concept of cooling textiles to lower the wearer’s thermal radiation so that we can tolerate higher air conditioning settings. In turn, this saves energy and reduces the climate impacts of energy production.

Hsu discussed their work in an article in the recent special issue of Science magazine, titled “Keeping cool in a warming world,” and on the magazine’s podcast.


The World's Coolest T-Shirt podcast graphic

 

For more information about Hsu’s work, we also invite you to listen to Duke Engineering’s Rate of Change podcast episode, “The World’s Coolest T-Shirt.”