UC Davis engineers innovate new sweatless workout fabric

YAHUI YANG / UC DAVIS
YAHUI YANG / UC DAVIS

Fabric will open vents when exposed to liquid, allowing for sweat ventilation

UC Davis engineers recently innovated a new workout fabric that will ventilate sweat. The material will react to the liquid by opening vents and relaxing constrictions in the fabric. The fabric, which is intended to innovate athletic and workout-wear, will also constrict and close back the vents once it is dry.

The project, which was headed by biomedical engineering professor Tingrui Pan, was created in the university’s Micro-Nano Innovations Laboratory.

“By opening up these vents in the fabric as you exercise, you can bring in more air flow,” Pan said in a press release.

The invention was based on the varying reactions different fabrics have to liquid. Cotton expands in volume when wet, while waterproof fabrics do not. Postdoctoral researcher Yahui Yang was able to bond waterproof fabric to cotton fabric in order to create shapes that curl up when wet, yet are also able to dry into their original shapes.

There are various materials that will contract or expand in response to heat or humidity. Simple thermostats can be made by bonding two metals that have different rates of expansion. This same principle of mechanical expansion was applied to the workout fabric, but instead in a water-driven way.

“Traditional fabrics would need an external source like batteries to open the holes. In our invention, we do not need an external power source,” Yang explained. “We just use the energy of the liquid to activate the shape change of the fabric.”

Currently, Yang is experimenting with different patterns for the vents in order to find cuts that are both fashionable and efficient. UC Davis has filed a provisional patent for the invention. Pan has already begun discussing the technology with large companies.

Garret Barton, a second-year biochemical engineering student, found the fabric not only innovative, but also practical.

“I know that at the gym, I often find myself heating up fairly quickly,” Barton said. “A fabric that would make cooling down easier would be very helpful and a lot more comfortable for people who exercise often.”

Written by: Jackie Carmaz – campus@theaggie.org