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Metro Science: Futuristic fabric, smart windows, and a new Alzheimer's test

The hottest runway look for F/W 2035: Reversible temperature fabrics, the new line from Stanford University materials engineers.

The new reversible material, which keeps the body cool when needed and heats it up when things get chilly, is not quite ready for the runway.

Thomas Kronsteiner / Getty Images

The new reversible material, which keeps the body cool when needed and heats it up when things get chilly, is not quite ready for the runway.

Step aside, Kanye West. The next big thing in fashion comes from a group of Stanford University materials engineers. The team has developed a reversible fabric that keeps the body cool when needed and heats it up when things get chilly.

What’s new?
This same team of engineers developed NanoPE, a fabric based on plastic wrap that has been shown to keep body temperature down. Now they are unveiling a reversible version. A copper layer traps body heat, warming up to 4 degrees Celsius. On the flip side the cooling plastic can lower temperature by 3 C.

Ready for its close-up?

The new reversible material developed at Stanford.

YI CUI Group / Stanford University

The new reversible material developed at Stanford.

Not quite. The plastic-based fabric might appeal to the fashion-forward set. But the team is working on making a fibre-based version that looks and feels more like traditional textiles.

Why bother?
These materials could have broad environmental impacts by reducing energy consumption. Lead researcher Yi Cui hopes that cooling people, instead of buildings, will cut down on air conditioning use, he told Popular Science. Presumably the same could be said for the new heating version. Plus, spending big on clothes could save on energy bills.

The NanoPE fabric developed at Stanford University.

Yi Cui Group / Stanford University

The NanoPE fabric developed at Stanford University.

SCIENCE STORY: BRIGHT IDEA

A team of chemical engineers has presented a prototype in Nature Materials for smart windows.

JIA LIN / U.C. BERKELEY

A team of chemical engineers has presented a prototype in Nature Materials for smart windows.

Windows may let the light in, but what else are they good for, really? A team of chemical engineers has presented a prototype in Nature Materials for smart windows: They change shade to block the glare and also absorb energy, much like a solar panel. It’s like transitions lenses for your house, but better.

SCIENCE STORY: NEW ALZHEIMER'S TEST

An Alzheimer’s blood test is another step closer, researchers reported in Nature online. Currently spinal taps or brain scans are needed to find the protein plaque that can lead to the disease.

SOUND SMART: Pyrolyzer

Try this in a sentence!

Andres Plana / Metro

Try this in a sentence!

DEFINITION: A tool that uses heat to break complex molecules into constituent parts.

USE IT IN A SENTENCE: The school dance chaperone threatened to bust out the pyrolyzer if any couples got too close.

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