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Scientists develop energy-free personal cooling device

USA: Researchers at the University of Missouri are developing an on-skin electronic device which can passively cool human bodies by around 6ºC without consuming any energy.

In addition to its potential for preventing heat stroke or exhaustion in vulnerable people, the scientists involved say that this multifunctional device could also be used  to monitor blood pressure, electrical activity of the heart and the level of skin hydration.

It is thought that such on-skin electronics could serve as the basis for future multifunctional smart textiles with passive-cooling functionalities. The passive cooling process uses no electrical devices such as a fan or pump, which researchers believe allows for minimal discomfort to the user.

“Our device can reflect sunlight away from the human body to minimise heat absorption, while simultaneously allowing the body to dissipate body heat, thereby allowing us to achieve around 11ºF of cooling to the human body during the daytime hours,” said corresponding author Zheng Yan, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering. “We believe this is one of the first demonstrations of this capability in the emerging field of on-skin electronics.”

Currently, the device is a small wired patch, and researchers say it will take one to two years to design a wireless version. They also hope to one day take their technology and apply it to ‘smart’ clothing.

“Eventually, we would like to take this technology and apply it to the development of smart textiles,” Yan said. “That would allow for the device’s cooling capabilities to be delivered across the whole body. Right now, the cooling is only concentrated in a specific area where the patch is located. We believe this could potentially help reduce electricity usage and also help with global warming.”

The findings are detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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