Thermoregulating Textiles: Towards a new style of living

What designer or textile engineer hasn’t dreamed of inventing evolutionary clothing? A second skin, hybrid, that responds to multiple functions and adapts itself to climate variations… a clothing that you could wear boarding a plane in Moscow and be assured of your comfort all the way to your arrival in Bamako.
In response to the climate variations provoked by the general rise of global temperatures, as well as to globalization – which has democratized work and leisure travel across the four corners of the planet – today, new thermoregulating textile products appear in our wardrobe.
The adaptive properties of knitwear
If “Coolmax” textiles are composed of synthetic microfibers that dry rapidly and are able to regulate body temperature, “CoolNet,” a product recently developed by Aclima AS, is a knitted motif in Merkalon® polypropylene that maintains a stable body temperature thanks to the proximity of air and skin. These “climatic” knits can be double-woven, plaiting two different materials to guarantee a better wicking of perspiration. This technique combines natural hydrophilic fibers and synthetic hydrophobic ones. These knits keep the skin dry and avoid the unpleasant “cooling” effect, that sensation of a wet, cold garment stuck to the body, thereby also slowing the growth of bacteria and unpleasant odors.
Thanks to new panel-knitting technologies, seamless and without assembly, so-called “body mapping” meshes play with the structural variations of the same knit to create new futuristic aesthetics but correspond perfectly in terms of their thermoregulation according to their location on different parts of the body.
From the locker room to the urban closet
The domain of sporting equipment clearly remains a true incubator of ideas and a good number of textile technologies and innovations were initially invented to enhance thermal comfort during sporting activities. These are the same technologies that we find today in pret-a-porter and men’s shirting and drapery, with large availability of “anti-heat” summer lines.
Among these inventions, Outlast® is a phase-change material, composed of paraffin dispersed by micro-encapsulation into the core of a textile base. Outlast® is proactive, storing or releasing heat as a function of body temperature, cooling or heating the wearer according to her or his own needs. This same thermoregulating technology adapts perfectly to bedding: the micro-capsules auto-regulate mattress temperature and, again, absorb, store and release heat as a function of temperature variation.
Also according to a patented process based on natural paraffin – this time contained directly within the fibers – “Smartcel™ Clima Fiber” similarly functions “preventatively” by the anticipatory accumulation of heat. The Climarelle fiber developed by Advansa is especially gifted in terms of thermoregulation. When the ambient temperature is higher than normal, the material produces a cooling effect, and inversely, if the temperature of the body drops below normal, Climarelle releases heat to help warm it up.
The Schoeller textile company, meanwhile, innovates and plays with the mimetic properties of pinecones, to develop the interactive antiperspirant “CChange.” It opens and closes according to the humidity level in the atmosphere, adapting the rate of the transfer of humidity to the climate, and returning to its initial state once the temperature lowers.
The thermal properties of ceramics
New materials see the light thanks to the development of nanotechnologies, which allow for interventions into textile fibers on a microscopic scale, endowing them with new properties. “Bioceramics” are fibers based on mineral oxides that reflect the waves emitted by the body. They warm the skin by a few degrees and improve blood circulation and the recovery of muscles after activity.
In 2009, denim-manufacturer Tavex launched “Denim Therapy” and pioneered the commercialization of a high-performance bioceramic finishing, which brings to the body a pleasant sensation of warmth and well-being. In the domain of undergarments, “XBionic” technology combines the technicity of Xianit™ fibers (an alloy of minerals and bioceramics) with body-mapping knitwear to give birth to a new generation of thermoregulating materials.
In our era, synthesizing the research undertaken over the past decades in the fields of chemistry and physics has considerably changed the way that we conceive of the industrial production of fibers and garments. The new materials which result – innovative, intuitive, and high-performance – are gradually making their way into our wardrobes. Capable of helping us cope in the face of climate change, they are striving to ensure our complete comfort.