A new nanowire mesh will heat our clothes instead of our homes

We all know that central heating is inefficient. In fact, according to Co Exist, it’s responsible for a third of climate change emissions worldwide. Even if you’re sitting in a cosy house or office right now, that’s enough to send a chill down your spine.

But a new invention by scientists at Stanford University could form the prototype for winter clothing that warms us up enough that we can cut our energy usage (and costs: win-win). It’s a coating of silver nanowires that form a metallic mesh that keeps in warmth, and it can be added to anything from gloves (pictured) to jumpers. The wires are invisible to the naked eye, weigh very little, and don’t change the clothing’s flexibility. The mesh can even be connected to electricity for a little extra warmth (if you go outside, for example). And naturally, it’s washing machine safe. It’s basically magic.

Of course, it doesn’t solve the wintry problems of cold floors and freezing toilet seats (just me?), not to mention the threat of burst pipes, so we’ll probably never fully replace heating with high-tech clothes. But one of its inventors, Yi Cui, says that we should be able to cut back on its use. ‘I think that heating systems will still be needed when the outside temperature is too cold. But we can save a lot in the amount of heating.’

His team’s working to make the tech available in the next five years, and in the meantime they’re working on fabric to cool people down when the weather heats up. Which those of us in the UK are far less likely to ever need, sadly.

Image credit: American Chemical Society.

Diane Shipley