Waterproof fabrics that whisk away sweat could be the latest application of microfluidic technology developed by UC Davis bioengineers.
The new fabric works like human skin, forming excess sweat into droplets that drain away by themselves, said inventor Tingrui Pan, professor of biomedical engineering.
Graduate students Siyuan Xing and Jia Jiang developed a new textile microfluidic platform using hydrophilic (water-attracting) threads stitched into a highly water-repellent fabric. They were able to create patterns of threads that suck droplets of water from one side of the fabric, propel them along the threads, and expel them from the other side.
The water-repellent properties of the surrounding fabric also help drive water down the channels. Unlike conventional fabrics, the water-pumping effect keeps working even when the water-conducting fibers are completely saturated, because of the sustaining pressure gradient generated by the surface tension of droplets. By adjusting the pattern of water-conducting fibers and how they are stitched on each side of the fabric, the researchers can control where sweat is collected and where it drains away on the outside.
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