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Subambient daytime radiative cooling textile based on nanoprocessed silk


Decreasing energy consumption is critical to sustainable development. Because temperature regulation for human comfort consumes vast amounts of energy, substantial research efforts are currently directed towards developing passive personal thermal management techniques that cool the human body without any energy consumption1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. Although various cooling textile designs have been proposed previously, textile-based daytime radiative cooling to a temperature below ambient has not been realized6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13. Silk, a natural protein fabric produced by moth caterpillars, is famous for its shimmering appearance and its cooling and comforting sensation on skin14,15,16,17. It has been recently recognized that silk, with its optical properties derived from its hierarchical microstructure, may represent a promising starting point for exploring daytime radiative cooling18,19,20,21. However, the intrinsic absorption of protein in the ultraviolet region prevents natural silk from achieving net cooling under sunlight. Here we explore the nanoprocessing of silk through a molecular bonding design and scalable coupling reagent-assisted dip-coating method, and demonstrate that nanoprocessed silk can achieve subambient daytime radiative cooling. Under direct sunlight (peak solar irradiance >900 W m2) we observed a temperature of ~3.5 °C below ambient (for an ambient temperature of ~35 °C) for stand-alone nanoprocessed silks. We also observed a temperature reduction of 8 °C for a simulated skin when coated with nanoprocessed silk, compared with natural silk. This subambient daytime radiative cooling of nanoprocessed silk was achieved without compromising its wearability and comfort. This strategy of tailoring natural fabrics through scalable nanoprocessing techniques opens up new pathways to realizing thermoregulatory materials and provides an innovative way to sustainable energy.

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Fig. 1: Subambient daytime radiative cooling design for nanoprocessed silk.
Fig. 2: Preparation and characterization of nanoprocessed silk.
Fig. 3: Measurement of the radiative cooling performance of natural and nanoprocessed silk.
Fig. 4: Thermal measurement of wearing nanoprocessed silk and its wearable performance.

Data availability

All relevant data are included in the manuscript and Supplementary Information. More detailed protocols, calculations and analyses are available from the authors upon request.


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We acknowledge the Micro-fabrication Center of the National Laboratory of Solid State Microstructures (NLSSM) for technical support. J.Z. acknowledges the support from the Xplorer Prize. This work was jointly supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant no. 2017YFA0205700), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 52002168, 12022403, 51925204, 11874211, 62134009, 62121005 and 61735008), the Science Foundation of Jiangsu (grant no. BK20190311), the Excellent Research Program of Nanjing University (grant no. ZYJH005), the research foundation of Frontiers Science Center for Critical Earth Material Cycling (grant no. JBGS2106) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (grant nos. 021314380184, 021314380208, 021314380190, 021314380140 and 021314380150). S.F. acknowledges the support of the US Department of Energy (grant no. DE-FG-07ER46426).

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Authors and Affiliations



B.Z., W.L., J.Z. and S.F. designed the experiments. B.Z., Q.Z., D.L., J.L., X.L., Y.W. and W.X. prepared and characterized the materials and also performed the human wearing measurements and analysis. B.Z., X.L., Z.W., J.L., X.L. and N.X. contributed to the optical and thermal measurements and analysis. W.L. performed the outdoor test in Stanford. W.L. and P.B.C. performed the calculations. B.Z., W.L., S.F. and J.Z. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Shanhui Fan or Jia Zhu.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Liangbing Hu and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Schematic 1, Figs. 1–16, Discussion and Tables 1 and 2.

Supplementary Video 1

Stretching, flexing and twisting of the NP-silk fabric.

Supplementary Video 2

Dynamic twisting test of NP-silk.

Supplementary Video 3

Deformation of silk sample without TT additive.

Supplementary Video 4

Screen printing process.

Supplementary Video 5

Washing test process.

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Zhu, B., Li, W., Zhang, Q. et al. Subambient daytime radiative cooling textile based on nanoprocessed silk. Nat. Nanotechnol. 16, 1342–1348 (2021).

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