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Can silver be a viable insulator for clothing?

  • Wednesday, January 14 2015 @ 10:37 AM EST
  • Views: 6,254
Silver Silver has many industrial uses and recent research from several departments within the Engineering faculty at Stanford University may have added one more - insulation. The researchers showed that combining silver with nanotechnology could help us conserve energy by retaining more of the body's own heat. Clothing with embedded metallic silver nanowire was shown to reflect back nearly nearly 90% wearer’s body heat thus creating a very efficient form of insulated clothing. Optionally, the silver nanowire can also help generate heat by converting energy (electricity) from a battery. The nanowire is able to bring these benefits by only using one gram of silver per clothing, an amount that adds minimal cost and isn't likely to have a material impact on the overall price of silver. From the study's abstract;

"The metallic nanowires form a conductive network that not only is highly thermal insulating because it reflects human body infrared radiation but also allows Joule heating to complement the passive insulation. The breathability and durability of the original cloth is not sacrificed because of the nanowires’ porous structure. This nanowire cloth can efficiently warm human bodies and save hundreds of watts per person as compared to traditional indoor heaters."

An interesting development as far as how this could affect the development of cold weather clothing. This could also have some marginal impact on the amount of energy used to heat indoor spaces if it spreads a bit more broadly. But this is unlikely, at least initially, as we would logically expect the biggest market to be specialized/performance type of clothing where high levels of insulation is needed, without the bulk of traditional (wool, down/feathers, synthetics, etc.) materials.

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