A Chinese research team has succeeded in replicating the thermal properties of polar bear fur to create a new type of fiber that has been shown to provide warmth when woven into a jacket.
Polar bear fur is considered exceptional in its ability to provide warmth in its icy environment, preventing heat from escaping due to its unique texture and protecting the bear's body from the cold.
During a study published on December 21 On patrol In “Science,” researchers from Zhejiang University's Department of Polymer Science and Engineering announced their success in drawing inspiration from this unique structure to create the famous airgel fibers and the thermal properties of bear fur. These efforts were not successful. The researchers succeeded in solving the problems in these threads.
Old meaning and new use
Airgel fibers are a special type of material made from “airgel”, a gelatinous material discovered in the 1930s, and in which the liquid component is usually replaced by a gas, resulting in a solid material consisting mostly of air, which is lightweight and highly porous, and the fibers are thin, flexible threads. or are formed by converting them into fibers.
These fibers maintain some of the basic properties of airgel, such as their lightweight nature and excellent insulating capabilities, and are designed to be stronger, yet very light, and are used for their excellent thermal insulation properties.
These fibers can be woven into a variety of industries that require lightweight, highly insulating materials, such as those made for aerospace purposes, as they are used in NASA spacecraft. However, in the past, there were two problems that prevented the use of these fibers in making lightweight and bulky clothing that provided warmth:
- 1- Moisture permeability: There is difficulty in allowing moisture through the material, which can cause discomfort as sweat or moisture is next to the skin, leading to a wet and uncomfortable feeling.
- 2- Strength and Durability: First Airgel fibers initially lacked the strength and durability required for practical use in clothing, and were brittle and prone to damage, for example, they could not be washed in a washing machine, which precluded their use in everyday clothing.
How did the solution come from bear fur?
Researchers were inspired to solve the previous two problems by the fur of the polar bear, whose structure consists of:
- Pore core:
Each strand of polar bear hair has a hollow or porous core. These tiny, air-filled cavities within the hair act as conductors, trapping air and preventing the loss of body heat. Since air is a poor conductor of heat, the presence of this air helps the pockets within the hair form a barrier against cooling.
- Thick crust:
Surrounding this porous core is a thick outer layer or cuticle. This outer layer provides protection and durability to the hair. It acts as a shield against harsh arctic climate conditions including wind and water, helping to maintain integrity. Insulating air pockets within hair. .
- Obvious features:
In addition, guard hairs — the long outer hairs of a polar bear's fur — have a transparent texture that allows sunlight to penetrate the bear's skin. Heat.
Together, these advantages provide better thermal insulation while maintaining strength and flexibility, something the researchers succeeded in pursuing using the freeze-spin method, which uses freezing and spinning properties to create certain types of fibers or materials. And it has four stages:
- 1- Preparation of solution: A solution is prepared containing the material intended for spinning, and this solution usually has specific properties that allow it to be converted into a solid or fibrous structure.
- 2- Coagulation: The initial solution is exposed to a very low temperature, causing it to freeze rapidly. This freezing process solidifies the solution into a semi-solid or gelatinous state.
- 3- Spinning: While the solution is in this frozen state, it is spun or processed into fibers or fibers, including techniques such as extrusion with micro-nozzles, stretching, or other methods of shaping the frozen material. Desired fiber shape.
- 4- Post processing stage: Depending on the desired properties of the final product, additional steps may be taken after spinning to further improve the properties of the fiber, and may include treatments such as drying, curing or coating to improve strength, durability or other specific properties.
With this spinning method, the researchers were able to create strong polymeric air fibers with lamellar pores using the first three stages. In the fourth stage, they coated them with a thin, stretchable rubber layer. The resulting coated airgel fibers achieved excellent thermal performance. Insulation performance, and being mechanically strong, they were suitable for knitting or weaving.
Properties of new fibers
During the study, the researchers ran tests on the new fibers, which mimicked polar bear fur, and found that they were able to stretch 1,000% of the strain, a significant improvement compared to traditional airgel fibers. 2%
The ability of fibers to elongate at 1000% strain is capable of withstanding a tensile force equal to 10 times their original length before breaking, and this property is often referred to as “elongation at break”.
Fibers with high elongation at break have the ability to stretch significantly before reaching the breaking point, and this indicates their flexibility and ability to withstand stretching forces without immediate failure.
The new fibers maintained their thermal insulation properties with minimal impact even after 10,000 continuous stretching cycles at 100% strain. Also, the fibers were washable and dyeable.
DEMO JACKET… ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
The researchers took an advanced step by making their fibers into long fibers used to weave the jacket. They then exposed the jacket to temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius and found that the jacket showed. Better thermal protection than down jackets or wool or cotton.
In addition to exceptional warmth and lightweight nature, the new airgel fibers offer several advantages revealed by research, including:
- Waterproof: Airgel fibers are naturally water-resistant, making them ideal for wet and snowy conditions.
- Breathable: Despite its insulating properties, it allows ventilation and prevents overheating and excessive sweating.
- Durability: It can withstand repeated use and washing without losing its insulating properties.
- Silent Round Spin: Its production has less environmental impact compared to traditional methods, which often involve hunting polar bears to benefit from their fur, a problem that disrupts the ecological balance in the sensitive ecosystem in the Arctic region, where bears play an important role in the diet. There is no chain, so trafficking is prohibited. Polar bear skins or parts cross borders under international laws such as CITES, which prohibits international trade in endangered wild animals and plants.
Industrial Application.. 3 Ques
The success of experiments at the laboratory level – as the study showed – does not mean that the new fibers are suitable for industry, says researcher Khaled Salah at the Textile Fibers Research Department of the Egyptian Agricultural Research Center.
In a phone interview with Al Jazeera Net, Salah explains that researchers need to answer 3 key questions:
- First: comfort and ease of wearing; How comfortable and easy to wear are clothes made from these new fibers?
- Second: regulatory and security considerations; Are there studies or evaluations on the safety of wearing clothing made from these fibers?
- Third: practical application and ease of use; Are there any anticipated challenges in commercializing this technology for widespread use, and to what extent will these garments be affordable for consumers?
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