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One side of this material can make you cool, the other side warm

The reversible material can be used for clothes or wearable electronics

Layers of the textile
Image: Hsu et al., Sci. Adv. 2017;3: e1700895

Staying the right temperature may be less of a struggle now that scientists have created a reversible material that can either cool you down or help you get warm.

There’s a lot of potential in clothing that regulates heat. Not only is it convenient, but it’s good for the environment. If you can heat up your own body effectively, you won’t need to spend a lot of energy to heat up, or cool down, the room. Scientists at Stanford University created a material that controls how much heat is lost depending on how you wear it. It can one day be used in clothing that helps regulate temperature, or wearable electronics, the researchers claim. The results were published today in the journal Science Advances.

Traditional materials do the same thing, even if they’re turned inside-out. This new material is made of plastic (a form of polyethylene, or the material in ClingWrap), carbon, and copper.

When you’re trying to cool down, the carbon-coated layer is on the outside, and you lose heat by radiation. When you want to be warmed up, the other side — which is coated with copper — is on the outside and the copper helps keep the heat in. The material can expand the range of comfortable temperatures by about 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a big deal.

It’ll be a while before your clothes from H&M have this ability, but it’s another example of how materials might be one innovative solution to some of our energy problems.

Correction 5:45 p.m. 11/10/17: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that an emitter “machine” inside helped control the heat. The heating and cooling is entirely a result of the two layers.