The human body already has a highly efficient cooling system: As perspiration evaporates, it draws heat away from the body. Wicking fabrics facilitate this process by distributing sweat evenly over the fabric, so that it dries more quickly. Despite devising cheats, such as menthol-like chemical coatings added to fabrics, companies have never actually improved upon the body’s natural cooling process. Designers at Columbia Sportswear have now made a fabric that does.
The wicking polyester base of the Omni-Freeze ZERO T-shirt is embedded with thousands of 0.15-inch hydrophilic polymer rings (a men’s medium has more than 41,000 of them). As the base spreads sweat, the rings absorb moisture and expand into three-dimensional doughnuts. In order to swell, the rings require energy, which they gather as body heat. In tests, the shirt was up to 10 degrees cooler against the wearer’s skin than shirts made from any other material.
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Material: stretch polyester
Sun Protection Factor: 50
Designers at Brooks worked with a team at the Loughborough University Sports Technology Institute in the U.K. to ensure runners wearing the Nightlife Jacket III remain visible to drivers in any light. The darker the surroundings, the more heavily eyes rely on contrast to pick out objects, so the team added black stripes to the arms and shoulders to offset the fluorescent base and better outline runners. Brooks NightLife Jacket III $115
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.