Heated Fabric Using Carbon Nanotube Coated Fibers
Kuraray Living has developed a full-face heating fabric using CNTEC, a carbon nanotube coated electro conductive fiber. This fiber was co-developed with Hokkaido University and others.
"This product uses conventional technology for the polyester fibers, and carbon nanotubes, a cutting-edge material, as a coating for the fibers. The fibers are woven into a textile, and when electricity is passed through them, they give off heat. So what we're exhibiting here is a fabric heater."
The nanotubes are applied using conventional dye-printing technology, with a carbon nanotube network forming on the surface of every filament in the multi-filament structure. The resulting fabric is thin, lightweight, flexible and soft, and has a high level of washing durability. It recently won an award from the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry.
"Take a look at that panel. The left side is heated using a conventional nichrome heating element. As our product is a textile, its entire surface gives off heat. Each fiber making up the textile gives off a small amount of heat, and together, they form a large heat-radiating object. So the entire surface can be heated without loss. Right now, this is being field-tested by Hokkaido University and the data shows that it could reduce energy consumption by about 20%."
Suggested uses for this fiber so far include USB-powered tabletop heaters and heated cushions as well as heated car seats and carpets. By taking advantage of the fact that the whole surface heats up uniformly, Kuraray is also developing a waterproof snow-melting mat.
"These are live pictures from Hokkaido University. This fabric has been placed under the road by the main gate, and it's melting the snow. What Hokkaido University has found is that carbon nanotubes tend to clump together, and they can't be used unless they're made to spread out. What's currently being tested is the use of technology from Hokkaido University to prevent them from doing that."
"Carbon nanotubes themselves are still an expensive material, but nowadays, they're being mass-produced much more. So we foresee that this will be a rational option in the future."
"We've been developing this since 2007, so in that sense, this is the fifth year of the project. We're still doing repeated field tests, and we aim to make this an established technology in about another year. We'd like to start releasing products in the market from around 2013."