To keep military personnel battle-ready in extremely cold conditions, researchers are now trying to develop a high-tech fabric material that would keep soldiers warm and make patrolling easier for them. According to researchers at the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Centre, this fabric contains a mesh of silver Nanowires that can be heated up to 100˚F (about 37˚C) using only the power output generated by a typical watch battery. Researchers say this fabric can be used to make gloves and other types of clothing for military personnel, and could also make their way to consumer clothing in coming years.

Cold-weather hand gear used by soldiers was designed about 30 years back

Protective clothing currently used by soldiers is usually heavy and also causes sweating upon exertion. Moreover, this type of clothing fails to protect hands and feet from being numb in extreme cold conditions. Paola D'Angelo, the lead researcher of the study, says much of cold-weather hand gear used by army personnel was designed about three decades ago. Even the winter gloves available at retail stores are not efficient enough to keep hands and feet of soldiers warm in Arctic conditions. This becomes more problematic if soldiers are asked to operate their weapons in extreme cold conditions.

The current research is inspired by an earlier study led by Yi Cui at Stanford University.

In that study, researchers created fine silver nanowires, and placed them on cotton. They found that the fabric got heated when power was applied to the silver nanowires.

New fabric would allow soldiers to warm their uniform to the desired temperature

The current team led by Dr. D'Angelo is now trying to extend this technique to make fabrics, like polyester, suitable for military uniforms.

When these researchers applied just 3 volts of power to a test swatch of 1-inch x 1-inch, the temperature of the swatch got increased by 100˚F (about 37˚C) in 60 seconds. The team says using this fabric in army uniforms would allow soldiers to warm their uniform to the desired temperature by increasing or decreasing the voltage.

Another big advantage of such fabric would be the reduction of the uniform weight.

The team is also trying to integrate a layer of hydrogel particles in this fabric. These particles—made of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) or polyethylene glycol—would keep other layers in the fabrics from getting wet by absorbing the sweat. After returning to base, soldiers can release the sweat from their uniform by hanging them up in indoor air.

The detailed findings of the research are being presented today at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Don't miss our page on Facebook!