Believe it or not, silver, the lustrous fashion-forward precious metal that is a staple of so many jewelry wardrobes, could soon save you $200 per year on your heating bill.
A team of researchers at Stanford University report that clothing coated with silver nanowire has the ability to reflect back nearly 90 percent of the wearer’s body heat.
Because the silver-enhanced super-insulated clothing works so efficiently, the researchers argue that there may be a time in the near future when “personal thermal management” will make far more sense than wasting energy heating large open spaces, such as homes or office buildings. The concept is simple: Heat the person, not the space.
A paper published in the journal Nano Letters explained that the coating is made of easily bendable silver nanowires that have the ability to trap heat inside a person’s clothing. Indoor heating accounts for 47 percent of total global energy usage, so widespread use of silver-enhanced clothing could deliver enormous benefits.
If you’re thinking that silver-infused clothing would be uncomfortable, heavy or extraordinarily expensive, think again. The researchers reported that the nanowire-coating cloth is breathable, light and relatively cheap. Less than $1 worth of silver — only a gram — is all that is needed to cover the clothing for a whole body, lead researcher Yi Cui told Popular Science.
People who wear silver nanowire-coated clothing will be able to turn their thermostats down while still being toasty warm. Cui said that the average person would save $200 a year on heating costs and conserve the energy equivalent of powering 1,000 light bulbs for 10 hours.
Silver nanowire cloth still needs to undergo safety testing. If it proves viable, the product could hit the market in a few years.
Baby photo: BigStockPhoto.com; Nano fabric photo: Courtesy of Yi Cui/Stanford University; Silver photo: Public domain.