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Nanoporous polyethylene microfibres for large-scale radiative cooling fabric

Abstract

Global warming and energy crises severely limit the ability of human civilization to develop along a sustainable path. Increasing renewable energy sources and decreasing energy consumption are fundamental steps to achieve sustainability. Technological innovations that allow energy-saving behaviour can support sustainable development pathways. Energy-saving fabrics with a superior cooling effect and satisfactory wearability properties provide a novel way of saving the energy used by indoor cooling systems. Here, we report the large-scale extrusion of uniform and continuous nanoporous polyethylene (nanoPE) microfibres with cotton-like softness for industrial fabric production. The nanopores embedded in the fibre effectively scatter visible light to make it opaque without compromising the mid-infrared transparency. Moreover, using industrial machines, the nanoPE microfibres are utilized to mass produce fabrics. Compared with commercial cotton fabric of the same thickness, the nanoPE fabric exhibits a great cooling power, lowering the human skin temperature by 2.3 °C, which corresponds to a greater than 20% saving on indoor cooling energy. Besides the superior cooling effect, the nanoPE fabric also displays impressive wearability and durability. As a result, nanoPE microfibres represent basic building blocks to revolutionize fabrics for human body cooling and pave an innovative way to sustainable energy.

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Fig. 1: NanoPE microfibre.
Fig. 2: NanoPE fabrics.
Fig. 3: Optical properties of the nanoPE fabric and other textiles.
Fig. 4: Thermal measurement of the nanoPE fabric and other textiles.
Fig. 5: Wearability tests for the nanoPE fabric and other textiles.

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Acknowledgements

This work was sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), US Department of Energy, under award DE-AR0000533. The authors thank H. Dai for lending them the thermal camera, and thank J. Lopez and V. Feig for helping with sample measurements.

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Authors

Contributions

Y.P., J.C. and Y.C. conceived the idea, planned the study, designed the experiment, analysed the data and composed the manuscript. Y.P. and J.C. performed all of the experiments with the assistance of P.-C.H., L.C., B.L., G.Z., D.S.W. and H.R.L. Y.P. and J.C. addressed all of the reviewers’ concerns together. A.Y.S. performed the optical simulation. Y.Z. performed the energy saving calculation. P.B.C. coordinated the project. Y.C. and S.F. supervised the project. All of the authors reviewed and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yi Cui.

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Competing interests

Y.C., S.F., Y.P., J.C., A.Y.S., P.B.C. and P.-C.H. have a US patent application No. 62/399,974 related to this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–3, Supplementary Figures 1–13, Supplementary References 1–5

Supplementary Video 1

Nanoporous polyethylene thin film

Supplementary Video 2

The nanoporous polyethylene fabric

Supplementary Video 3

Continuous fibre production

Supplementary Video 4

Cotton-like soft nanoporous polyethylene microfibres

Supplementary Video 5

Washing and drying of nanoPE fabric with a commercial washing and drying machine

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Peng, Y., Chen, J., Song, A.Y. et al. Nanoporous polyethylene microfibres for large-scale radiative cooling fabric. Nat Sustain 1, 105–112 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0023-2

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