Scientists create smart sportswear to keep you dry and comfortable

Credit: Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

With the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games approaching, excitement is building, but intense summer workouts often make sportswear clingy and uncomfortable due to excessive sweat.

To address this issue, researchers from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have developed iActive sportswear, designed to keep athletes dry and comfortable during exercise.

The human body has millions of sweat glands that help regulate body temperature by releasing sweat, which cools the skin as it evaporates.

However, with rising temperatures due to climate change, people are sweating more during physical activity.

Even breathable, sweat-wicking clothes can become uncomfortable with too much sweat.

The iActive sportswear, created by the School of Fashion and Textiles at PolyU, features a special system that mimics nature to remove sweat efficiently.

This includes artificial “sweat glands” and a liquid transport system that works like roots, directing sweat to a dissipater at the lower part of the sportswear.

The sweat-dissipating system is compact, safe to use with a voltage of 5-9V, and has a detachable battery, making it easy to wash the clothing. The iActive can still be used without the battery when sweat levels are low.

Using advanced textile fabrics, the research team developed a material that quickly transports sweat from the inside to the outside of the clothing.

This reduces stickiness, weight, and improves breathability, ensuring the wearer stays dry and comfortable.

Tests show that iActive can dissipate sweat three times faster than the human body’s maximum sweating rate, preventing discomfort from moisture after workouts.

Compared to traditional fabrics, iActive materials are 60% lighter and 50% less clingy when wet, providing superior comfort for athletes.

A mobile app further enhances the experience by allowing users to adjust the sweat management system wirelessly. This innovation can be applied to various textiles, making it suitable for mass production.

Beyond sportswear, iActive is ideal for protective clothing and workwear for people in physically demanding jobs, such as healthcare workers, construction workers, firefighters, and police officers.

Dr. Shou Dahua, who led the research, explained, “With global warming causing extreme weather and high temperatures, preventing heatstroke and staying cool is crucial. Inspired by nature, we aim to innovate and create sustainable clothing solutions to meet global challenges. Our goal is to use technology to bring new ideas to the traditional clothing industry and improve its competitiveness.”

Dr. Shou’s team has also developed a fabric called Omni-Cool-Dry, inspired by beetles that live in volcanoes. This fabric provides fast sweat dissipation, comfort, and passive cooling by reflecting solar radiation and emitting body heat into space.

The team is working to combine the benefits of both inventions to further improve the iActive sportswear’s cooling and sweat-dissipating capabilities.