MIT engineers successfully developed self-cooling fabrics using polyethylene, a material that’s common in the production of plastic bags.
When considering materials that are potential fabrics of the future, scientists seemed to have dismissed a widely available choice, i.e. polyethylene.
Polyethylene is the stuff in plastic wraps and grocery bags and it’s known to be lightweight and thin. And, it can also help you stay cool better than other textiles since it allows heat to go through, rather than trapping it.
And, scientists decided to explore it.
Scientists Create Breathable & Eco-Friendly Fabric from Polyethylene
However, polyethylene locks in sweat and water since it can’t evaporate and draw away moisture. This is the biggest deterrent of its adoption as a potential textile for clothes.
But, MIT engineers have managed to spin it into fibers and yarns that draw away moisture.
They wove the yarns into lightweight and silky fabrics which are known to absorb and evaporate water faster than other common textiles like nylon, polyester, and cotton.
What’s more, they also calculated the footprint of polyethylene if it were used for textile production. Counter to many assumptions, its footprint on the environment is smaller than that of nylon and cotton textiles.
The MIT team hopes that this fabric could be the necessary incentive for the recycling of plastic bags and other products with polyethylene into textiles that can be worn and thus, add to its sustainability.
When a person throws a plastic bag into the ocean, it’s a big issue.
But, if they were recycled and used to make a pair of sneakers or a hoodie, it would be savvy to pick these bags up and use them, explains the research scientist from MIT, Svetlana Boriskina.
Read more about this inspiring and promising research in the Nature Sustainability journal.