The Loh Down On Science

A new synthetic fabric channels sweat away!

Workout wear just got weirder—in a wonderful way!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet Siyuan Xing and Jia Jiang from the University of California, Davis.  They've developed a new type of water-wicking fabric.  It works the way human skin does—by forming sweat into droplets that drain away.

How does it work?  With threads that are hydrophilic, or water-attracting, stitched into a fabric that is highly hydrophobic, or water-repellant­­­­.  The hydrophilic threads act as channels; droplets of sweat are sucked from one side of the fabric, sent along the threads, and expelled on the other side.

This process of using tiny channels to manipulate liquids is called “microfluidics.”

Part of how the threads conduct water is through capillary action.  Like how a paper towel wicks liquids.  But since the rest of the fabric is water-repellent, it keeps driving water out even when the channeling threads are sopping wet.

So from now on, your workouts can really be “no sweat.”  At least clothing-wise.  Please call when a robot can do our planking.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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