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A new textile made from a reversible fabric could warm or cool wearers and keep them comfortable. Two layers of material with different abilities to release heat energy are stacked together and sandwiched between layers of polyethylene. (Image credit: Yi Cui Group)

A new double-sided fabric may allow people to keep the same wardrobe in the summer and the winter.

Researchers from Stanford University have created a reversible fabric that keeps skin in a comfortable temperature depending on which side faces out.

“Why do you need to cool and heat the whole building? Why don’t you cool and heat individual people?” Yi Cui, a professor of materials science and engineering, said in a statement.

The researchers estimate that 13 percent of all of the energy consumed in the U.S. is dedicated to indoor temperature control, but for every one degree Celsius that a thermostat is turned down for heating or up for cooling, a building can save 10 percent of its heating energy.

Last year, the researchers created a fabric that allowed the body’s heat to pass through, thus cooling the skin and ultimately saving a building full of workers 20-to-30 percent of their total energy budget.

“Right around when we figured out cooling, then came the question: Can you do heating?” postdoctoral fellow Po-Chun Hsu, who was first author on the recent paper, said in a statement.

The researchers then stacked two layers of material with different abilities to release heat energy and sandwiched them between layers of their cooling polyethylene.

The one side contained a copper coating that traps heat between a polyethylene layer and the skin, while the other side contained a carbon coating that releases heat under another layer of polyethylene.

While the material has shown promise, the researchers said more work will need to be done before it can be used in clothing.

“Ideally, when we get to the stuff you want to wear on skin, we’ll need to make it into a fiber woven structure,” Cui said.

The study was published in Science Advances.     

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