Team at Rutgers creates heating patches on clothes for more efficient way to stay warm
Homes are not the only things heating up this week, as a team of Rutgers engineers have been creating an energy-saving alternative to traditional indoor heating inside clothing.
The team consists of Rajiv Malhotra, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Hyun-Jun Hwang, a postdoctoral associate, and Harish Devaraj, a graduate student. They have created this technology in hopes of solving one of the flaws with indoor heating: wasting too much energy.
When it is colder, people try to stay warm with either a heater or a central heating system that most homes have, Malhotra said.
“If you think about it, you’re heating everything in the room. You're heating up the couch, heating up the table, my clothes hanging there, heating up the carpet and all my furniture. These have a thermostat,” he said. “Everything in that entire room is heated to that set temperature according to the thermostat. So we’re wasting a lot of energy doing that.”
In other words, the thermostat would not be able to stop the heating process when an individual is warm, but instead until everything else in the room is at that temperature. The focus of the team’s creation is to alleviate such energy waste by only heating up the person.
“Estimates are that we waste 40 percent of the energy in building heating ... but what we actually want to do is heat us," Malhotra said.
The team has currently been developing patches made up of silver nanowires to embed inside clothing. These patches have been tested to ensure that it can function properly under the everyday conditions of being on a human being, Malhotra said.
“So when you wash this, you can expose it to humidity, sweat, a higher temperature and repeated up and down cycling of the current,” he said.
While the team has not contacted any companies with this idea, they have plans for commercialization.
The principle of using electrical conductors to produce heat is not a relatively new concept, as previous teams have worked on the idea as well. What the University's team showed, though, was the ability to produce these electrical patches on an industrial level.
“There have been people who were developing this in the past. What we showed was that we can make these not just on lab scale, but we can make these using processes easily transferable to an industrial scale,” Malhotra said.
This is needed when working with materials such as clothing, which are produced not as small quantities in lab settings, but in large swathes inside factories. Malhotra said similar processes could be done for the patches. When going through their production and use, there was much better heating efficiency and durability.
The team’s research brings the idea of nanowire patches closer to being a practicality, as it allows the production of such patches to keep up with the production of clothing on an industrial level, Malhotra said.
“There should be an efficient way of heating us without having to heat everything else,” Devaraj said.