Wearable heating and cooling?

A material called graphene is changing the game for textiles, and could revolutionise the way we cool and heat our shared spaces.

Graphene is a thin form of graphite, and can radiate or detract heat. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in Physics for their work with isolating the carbon. The scientific breakthrough was apparently met with scepticism before it was accepted, possibly because they made the discovery with sticky tape.

Since then, scientists have done further experimenting with the carbon and there are now clothes available that are conductive to heating and cooling. Graphene has proven to be thermal, waterproof and fireproof when in cloth form.

A company called Vollebak released the first graphene jacket in August last year. The second release of test jackets are currently for sale and cost $US695.

According to Vollebak’s website, the graphene in the jacket helps to equalise skin temperature. It can carry heat from one part of your body to another, and can absorb heat.

AECOM’s Nicola Gillen, author of Future Office: Next-generation workplace design, believes this could allow individuals to control their own heating and cooling.

“One of the interesting implications then, for office buildings, is we may no longer be fitting expensive mechanical and electrical heating, and air conditioning into buildings,” Gillen told the ABC. “We may simply be wearing it ourselves.”

The downside to graphene is that it’s expensive and hard to manufacture. Vollebak even laser-cut all of the pockets and lining in its jackets to prevent material wastage.

Other companies are trying to integrate graphene with smart technology. It is expected to have a significant impact on the health and safety industries.

The possibilities seem endless at the moment – find out more about what graphene can do here.

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