Clothing with built in air conditioning

Engineers design wearable material for personal heating and cooling

Renkun Chen (left), UC San Diego professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, measures the temperature of the prototype cooling/heating system.
Renkun Chen (left), UC San Diego professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, measures the temperature of the prototype cooling/heating system. (Photos by David Baillot/UCSD)

SAN DIEGO, Ca. – Some people may choose to stay indoors under the comfort provided by air conditioners as temperatures soar to near 100 degrees this weekend. 

But in the future, people may be able to wear clothing with built-in personalized air conditioning in the fabric. 

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a wearable patch that could provide personalized cooling and heating at home, work or on the go.

A soft, stretchy patch cools or warms a user’s skin to a comfortable temperature and keeps it there even as temperatures fluctuate through the day.

It is powered by a flexible, stretchable battery pack and can be embedded in clothing. 

The device is just in the proof-of-concept stage now, but the ultimate goal is to combine multiple patches to create smart clothing that can be worn for personalized cooling and heating. 

Armband embedded with flexible battery pack (left), stretchable circuit (center), and cooling/heating patch (right).

This could help cut energy costs by reducing whole home heating and cooling requirements.

Researchers estimate the power required to cool a vest made of patches would be about the same as running a laptop computer and far less than the tens of kilowatts to cool down an entire room.

The research team is now working on a prototype cooling and heating vest. They hope to commercialize the technology in a few years.


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