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'Nanowire' clothing could cut your heating bills

A woman braces from the cold during the morning commute in New York City November 25, 2013 as temperatures dropped into the lower 30's(F).
Timothy Clary | AFP | Getty Images
A woman braces from the cold during the morning commute in New York City November 25, 2013 as temperatures dropped into the lower 30's(F).

Scientists have developed a nearly invisible coating that supercharges a fabric's ability to hold in heat, and it's hoped that the material could make clothes so warm that households could save hundreds of dollars on heating bills.

Metals reflect heat very well, but are obviously uncomfortable to wear. To overcome that, researchers at Stanford University coated cloth with flexible, silver "nanowires" that reflect the heat human bodies naturally emit, according to a study published January 7 in the journal Nano Letters, and since discussed in Popular Science.

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The single thin coating of silver nano wires would be unnoticeable, and porous enough to allow perspiration to escape. But the coating would vastly improve the way clothing holds in heat, allowing people to wear fewer and thinner layers in colder environments. Since metal also conducts electricity, wearers could hook their clothes to an electrical source to further boost the warmth, if needed.

The silver needed to cover an entire person's body would cost only a dollar, lead researcher Yi Cui told Popular Science. The material will require safety testing before it can be approved for use, but it could come to market in a few years if approved.

Of course, the technology would be of little use for any part of the body left uncovered, like the face, feet or hands. So, just in case, prospective buyers will probably want to make sure their thermostats still work.

Read the full article in Popular Science.