Could your clothing store solar heat?

Imagine if your shirt or dress could release heat to keep you warm during the winter months. Even more, what if it could dial back on your thermostat setting and […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

Imagine if your shirt or dress could release heat to keep you warm during the winter months.

Even more, what if it could dial back on your thermostat setting and have the right temperature if you enter a cooler room?

Well according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), that could be possible in the near future.

They have developed a new material that can store solar energy during the day and release it later as heat, whenever it is needed.

They claim the transparent polymer film could be applied to different surfaces such as clothing or window glass to de-ice car windshields.

While chemically-based storage materials, known as solar thermal fuels (STF), have been developed before, “they had limited utility in solid-state applications”, according to the researchers.

The layer-by-layer solar thermal fuel polymer film comprises three distinct layers. Image: MIT
The layer-by-layer solar thermal fuel polymer film has three distinct layers. Image: MIT

Their approach is claimed to be the first based on a solid-state material – in this case polymer – and the first based on inexpensive materials and widespread manufacturing technology.

It can release a burst of around 10°C above the surrounding temperature but they are trying to boost it to 20°C.

Graduate student Eugene Cho, one of the researchers said: “Manufacturing the new material requires just a two-step process that is very simple and very scalable. The system is based on previous work that was aimed at developing a solar cooker that could store solar heat for cooking after sundown but there were challenges with that.”

He added the team realised that if the heat-storing material could be made in the form of a thin film, then it could be “incorporated into many different materials”.