Manufacturers today sell a number of items marketed to keep people cool, including pillows, blankets, and complete beds. However, cooling textiles are simply fabrics, as opposed to the heated variants of same products, which have some form of technology inside. What then is the key? How do these items reduce your temperature without using sophisticated technology? Do they actually function?
Really Cool Technology
According to Jim Ross, senior vice president of product development at American Textile Company, makers of Tranquility weighted blankets, the history of cooling fabric dates back to the early days of NASA when scientists there were researching the effects of textiles on a person wearing a spacesuit. Of course, NASA today incorporates additional equipment to keep astronauts cool in their spacesuits, such as cooling panels with liquid-filled channels and a system of tiny tubes connected to a backpack refrigeration unit. This is a long cry from the stylish shirts, shorts, and other athletic apparel available today, like, to mention a few, Nike's Dri-FIT and Adidas Climacool.
The use of various cooling methods with textiles is possible, according to Ross. Temperature balancing and temperature abatement are the two basic categories into which they can be separated. Wicking is the main focus of materials that regulate body temperature. According to Nike, its Dri-FIT fabric wicks away perspiration and distributes it over the surface so that it can evaporate more quickly. Clothing made by Adidas Climacool functions similarly. Usually, a polymer is used to treat these materials. A polymer is a lengthy chain of organic molecules that is put together from numerous smaller molecules known as monomers. Whether it's an athletic shirt or a pair of leggings, your body's heat and humidity activate the polymer finish, which subsequently drives moisture away from the fabric's surface.
Ross explains, "It's about increasing humidity evaporation. He likens the concept of temperature balance to the feeling of coolness we get after taking a shower when the water or humidity dries out. The Tranquility Weighted Blanket from American Textile Company uses this type of technology to reduce temperature by actually transmitting heat. In both situations, the treatment of the cloth impacts how it affects cooling. The material truly feels cool to the touch even though it isn't because of temperature abatement cooling. The conductivity of the fabric's yarn—a highly conductive polyethylene—enables the cloth to be made cool (PE). In contrast to wicking technology, which involves treating the cloth, in this case the yarn is designed to cool. Heat is quickly removed from the surface by PE yarn.
According to Ross, the transfer procedure is comparable to how various types of fabric, wood, and metal feel to the touch. Even if the ambient temperature for all three is the same, the metal will feel cooler to the touch if samples of these three are placed side by side. However, some materials, such as metal, can transmit heat away from the surface more quickly as your touch heats them, producing a cooling feeling. The same principles apply to PE yarn. Using a heat-conductive PE yarn, a cool-to-the-touch blanket absorbs body heat and displaces thermal energy to produce a cooling effect. Do you see a pattern here? Cooling happens in both situations when heat or humidity is moved out of your body. There is a third phase change material in addition to the two categories of cooling methods that we previously stated. According on the temperature, this substance can transition from a liquid to a solid form, hence the name. It functions by absorbing or releasing heat. PCM can control heat in fabrics or mattresses.
Any of the aforementioned cooling techniques will perform as intended. When you touch a textile that uses temperature abatement, it will feel cooler to the touch. The reduced temperature is also noticeable when you wrap up in a cooling blanket. Your body will cool with temperature balance; it's just more passive, according to Ross. In order to continue wicking moisture away, temperature balance cools for a longer period of time. He claims that one fabric has a cooling effect while the other lowers your body temperature covertly. Additionally, because PCM operates in cycles, it tries to control body temperature in addition to cooling.
Where do these cooling techniques get their use? Almost all cooling technology used in clothing is dynamic wicking, in part because PE yarns are less breathable and more challenging to deal with. Ross, however, predicts that as technology advances and designers become more adept at using it, the option of temperature abatement may become more prevalent in clothes. But there are many other cooling products available for home textiles. For instance, the Tranquility brand offers weighted blankets that are both temperature-balancing and cold to the touch. A variety of cooling options are also available in mattresses and pillows. The mattress will either feature a wicking fabric, use PE yarn that is cool to the touch, or contain some sort of PCM, regardless of how the mattress is marketed.
Does this Tech Really Work?
Are these items sufficient to keep you cool while you exercise or sleep all night? In principle, they ought to all function. But the number of obstacles between you and the cooling textile can have an impact on how cool you feel. For instance, you might not benefit from a cooling mattress if there are numerous layers of non-cooling textiles on top of it. You should also keep in mind that your body has two sides: the side that faces up and the side that lies on the mattress. Even if the mattress is comfortable, the blanket covering you might not be. That would also influence how cool you are in general.
According to Ross, the microclimate comprises both the surfaces we lie on and the objects above us. A cold blanket impacts the top surface, helping to cool you off. A top sheet might generate a microclimate of heat your body radiates and trap it there. The same concept applies to wearing wicking clothing while working out. The good news is that while cooling textiles are made to function when your body adds a source of heat or humidity, they continue to function while you are wearing them. Ross says of temperature-control technology that "it doesn't fade or go away." "Your body activates it." Similar to this, wicking technology lies inert until heat is applied, at which point it begins to transfer. Similar to the parable of the tree falling in the woods, cooling technologies only function when human body heat is present to detect them.