Finally, a solar-powered wearable that makes sense. Or not.
I don't know whether to file this one under the just what we needed department, or the tinfoil hat department, or even the wishful thinking department, but either it will be the biggest thing in cold weather gear since Gore-Tex and synthetic down or it will turn people into walking Faraday cages.
According to press materials from ThermalTech, which is currently seeking crowdfunding on Indiegogo, the company's jackets are the "world's first solar-powered smart jackets" and can increase the "in-clothing temperature" by 18°F in just two minutes, thanks to "paper-thin" stainless steel mesh fabric threads that are said to absorb the sun's UV rays and "transform them into heat."
The steel mesh fabric technology found inside the ThermalTech jackets is an offshoot of the founder's work on solar water heaters, and the project directly fits with the company's goal to "impact people's life positively thru technology." In many cases, when we talk about technology, we're often referring to something that is wired and connected and powered, but in the case of these jackets, the company's technology doesn't require a power source other than the sun, and is said to be "smart" without having the usual electronic brain we've come to expect from so-called smart objects.
"We believe that by introducing this solar-absorbing fabric into the apparel marketplace, the next generation of outerwear will provide the consumer with even more of an optimal temperature & fit. This will allow everyone from the snowboarder to the fashionista to be warmer in colder climates." - Carlos Cortes, CEO of ThermalTech
The ThermalTech jackets, which will come in three different versions, the Street (rated for 32° to 50°F/0 to 10°C), Explorer (30° to 55°F/-1° to 10°C) and Extreme (same temperature range as the Explorer, but with features intended for use winter sports), and are said to be light-weight, breathable, and waterproof. The "smart" feature is said to keep the wearers from overheating, and to prevent retained heat from radiating away from the wearer into the cold air after the sun goes down.
"The ThermalTech smart fabric prevents overheating by maintaining the temperature once the wearer reaches the optimal body temp. This is the same principal as how the body cools itself while exercising. At some point your body starts to expel and radiate the surplus of energy being created; the same happens with ThermalTech, its smart fabric technology understands when is time to expel energy once it had enough from the sun or artificial light." - ThermalTech
Here's the Indiegogo video pitch:
I'd love for this product to be exactly what it claims to be - a jacket that can warm up the wearer by 18° F in two minutes with the sun's energy - but I have to admit that I'm a bit skeptical of it, especially at the price stated on the campaign page ($149 for Early Bird backers, said to be 50% off the future retail price). However, I'd be happy to be wrong about it, so if you're interested, see the company's website and crowdfunding page.