Jimmy Carter made our list of eco-friendly presidents, in part because he advocated wearing a sweater instead of heating up your house too much. Indeed, heat the person not the house is a sensible, energy-efficient strategy. The trouble is, however, that wearing warm clothes can get decidedly uncomfortable if the temperature changes dramatically — and carrying around extra layers for later can be a hassle.
But what if our clothes could adjust our heat according to the outside conditions?
That's the idea behind a polymer that MIT researchers are developing that will trap the sun's heat, store it in chemical form, and then release it back later when needed. As Michael Grothaus reports over at Fast Company, the implications could be far-reaching. Unlike systems that store the sun's energy as electricity, chemical storage allows for the heat to be held indefinitely without dissipating into the outside environment. And while previous chemical storage systems were based on liquids, the polymer form of this new solution allows for greater flexibility in where and how the technology is applied.
The aforementioned heat-trapping clothing, for example, would allow for clothes lightweight and breathable enough to be worn during the day that would emit significant heat once the sun goes down. Similarly, the polymer is thin enough and transparent enough to be incorporated into automotive glass — allowing for electricity-free defrosting of windows that could significantly cut the drain on a car's battery that heating and deicing typically cause. (As a recent convert to electric vehicles, I can attest that heating can negatively impact range in today's electric cars.)
No word on timelines for when this technology will be commercialized. There's definitely more work to be done.