Everyone loves to be comfortable, but what you consider to be a perfect temperature might be drastically different than the temperature preferred by a person sitting just a couple feet away. Whether you work in a large office, or even just live with one or more other people, you know that battles over thermostat settings can be, well, heated.
Researchers from the University of California San Diego have developed a wearable that could completely change the way we think of heating and cooling our bodies. It’s a patch that is designed to be worn around the arm, and it actively modifies skin temperature, making the wearer feel warmer or cooler depending on their own personal preference.
The development of the device, which was written about in a new research paper published in Science Advances, focused on personal comfort above all else. The idea here is that the band, which at this stage is made of a flexible, stretchy fabric, could help to offset changes in room temperature and ensure that the wearer remains at their desired skin temperature.
The wearable accomplishes this feat using a square patch dotted with thermoelectric nodes which are connected to a pair of flexible elastomer sheets. Combined with a control unit to alter the electric current, the patch acts a bit like a heat pump, allowing for heat to be moved from one side of the patch to the other.
“To do cooling, we have the current pump heat from the skin side to the layer facing outside,” Renkun Chen, lead author of the study, explains in a statement. “To do heating, we just reverse the current so heat pumps in the other direction.”
Eventually, Chen and his team imagine such patches being worn by just about everyone or even built right into “smart” clothing. Small modifications to the skin temperatures of individuals would be more efficient than heating or cooling entire rooms or buildings, and the personal nature of the devices could ensure that everyone is at their own desired temperatures. The scientists are already working on developing a mobile app that would work hand-in-hand with the device to allow for easy control over temperature changes.