Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd. is entering the market for comfortable clothing materials with the development of a new resin that can regulate temperature.
Existing thermal clothing is made of fibers that absorb body moisture to generate heat, and so the clothing’s ability to keep the wearer warm depends on the level of moisture. Fabric that is cool to the touch can also be made by changing the way the fibers are spun and how they absorb moisture.
By modifying the molecular structure of an olefinic resin, Sumitomo Chemical has allowed its new resin to phase transition from a liquid to a solid. This means that, for example, a resin designed for a temperature range of 20 degrees Celsius absorbs heat if the ambient temperature is lower than 20 degrees Celsius, or radiates heat outward if it is higher.
The resin remains in a solid state and does not lose the components it uses to regulate temperature. Rather than undergo a rapid change of temperature, the material slowly moves towards the preset temperature range, which can be set anywhere between 20–60 degrees Celsius.
Sumitomo Chemical envisions a business model in which it supplies companies with the resin in pellet form. The resin can be spun into fiber just like polyester, and can be made into a monofilament, or can have these monofilaments bundled and twisted to create a multifilament. The material can also be dyed like conventional fibers.
Sumitomo Chemical has teamed up with textile manufacturers and apparel companies to make actual articles of clothing from the resin and test its ability to regulate temperature. As the resin can be spun into textiles and even made into nonwovens, the company is working to develop a wide range of applications.
Plans are to complete tests with apparel companies within the first half of fiscal 2018 and to then apply test results to future product development.