UC DAVIS (US) — A new fabric works like human skin, forming excess sweat into droplets that drain away by themselves, says inventor Tingrui Pan.
Pan, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of California, Davis, and his research team developed a new textile microfluidic platform using hydrophilic (water-attracting) threads stitched into a highly water-repellent fabric.
They were able to create patterns of threads that suck droplets of water from one side of the fabric, propel them along the threads and expel them from the other side.
“We intentionally did not use any fancy microfabrication techniques so it is compatible with the textile manufacturing process and very easy to scale up,” says Siyuan Xing, lead graduate student on the project. A paper describing the research was published recently in the journal Lab on a Chip.
It’s not just that the threads conduct water through capillary action. The water-repellent properties of the surrounding fabric also help drive water down the channels.
Unlike conventional fabrics, the water-pumping effect keeps working even when the water-conducting fibers are completely saturated, because of the sustaining pressure gradient generated by the surface tension of droplets.
The rest of the fabric stays completely dry and breathable. By adjusting the pattern of water-conducting fibers and how they are stitched on each side of the fabric, the researchers can control where sweat is collected and where it drains away on the outside.
Workout enthusiasts, athletes, and clothing manufacturers are all interested in fabrics that remove sweat and let the skin breathe. Cotton fibers, for example, wick away sweat—but during heavy exercise, cotton can get soaked, making it clingy and uncomfortable.
The National Science Foundation partially funded the research.
Source: UC Davis