Materials Innovation Update: Brands Betting On Clothes That Heat And Cool

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Started by a former North Face director and a Stanford energy professor, LifeLabs uses infrared radiation and body physics in its development of material solutions for a changing world.

The field of textile innovation is seeing renewed interest, with the fashion industry favoring biodegradable materials and regenerative farming methods. However, textile innovation also focuses on solutions that harness body heat to create a significant impact on the environment. This is done through specific material combinations designed to reduce reliance on energy-intensive heating and cooling devices.

LifeLabs’ MegaWarm jacket, launched in December, has the highest CLO rating of any garment in the world, at 9.25, according to the company. CLO is a value that describes the degree of insulation provided by a garment, with a CLO value of 1 equaling the amount of clothing required by a human at rest to maintain thermal comfort at an ambient temperature of 71 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). ). The ability to maintain a comfortable body temperature outside the home while wearing the jacket would also affect the amount of heating an individual would need upon returning indoors, essentially reducing their need for prefabricated home heating.

In comparison, the Canada Goose Snow Mantra Jacket has a CLO score of 6.70 and The North Face Summit AMK L6 Parka has a CLO score of 6.06.

“Because everyone emits infrared radiation and heat, if you can control the IR, you can control the warming.” WarmLife’s material construction works like two layers, said Scott Mellin, CEO of LifeLabs: There’s an outer fabric and a second metallic layer that reflects body heat. “This maintains all the stretch, porosity and breathability of the fabric, but it reflects all your IR and heat, reducing your insulation needs by up to 30%.” The jacket is available in sizes XS-XL for men and women and sells for $693 on LifeLabs.design.

LifeLabs was founded in 2020 by Professor Yi Cui, Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, who has written over 500 research publications on energy conservation and has filed 50 patent applications. CEO Scott Mellin was previously at North Face as global vice president, where he developed the brand’s Futurelight collection based on breathable and waterproof outerwear. While many hardware innovations focus on material composition, Lifelabs focuses on patented textiles that prioritize performance and reduce energy consumption. Ultimately, if this technology becomes more widely available, it could inform a new generation of energy-efficient clothing not currently on the market.

“Remarkably lightweight for size and coverage, the MegaWarm Jacket defies common standards for insulated clothing,” Dr. Cui said. “Our unique WarmLife technology uses less aluminum than a paperclip to reflect 100% of your body’s radiant heat back to your skin using 30% less material.”

As global warming affects the planet, clothing can play an important role in reducing reliance on energy-intensive air conditioners. According to the International Energy Association, the use of air conditioners is a blind spot of climate change, with the use of air conditioners and electric fans in buildings representing ten% of global energy consumption.

LifeLabs is also innovating with its line of CoolLife clothing. Clothing, including t-shirts and sleepwear, is formulated to reduce body temperature by 4 degrees. “The fabric’s simple molecular structure allows 100% of your infrared radiation to radiate through the fabric and 100% of your heat to dissipate through it,” Mellin said. “The polymer chemistry actually draws heat away from your skin. It’s like changing your thermostat from 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 68. I’ve had testers who said they stopped using their AC entirely overnight.

According to a new climate update released by the World Meteorological Organization, there is a 40% chance that global average temperatures will reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels within the next five years. As such, the demand for such wearable innovations will only increase.

US-based LifeLabs is expanding globally over the next 10 months. LifeLabs also works with a number of undisclosed partners to provide its proprietary materials to other industries, including automotive and furniture.

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