Researchers from MIT have created a material that can keep perishable goods likes produce or medication cool without the need for external power. The material was originally inspired by camel fur and is made up of two layers: hydrogel and aerogel.
Researchers were inspired by camel fur when coming up with their new creation. Camel fur contains properties that help the animals keep cool and conserve energy and water in extreme conditions. Tests have shown that a shaved camel can lose as much as 50 percent more moisture when compared to an unshaved camel.
The bottom layer of MIT’s new material is made up of hydrogel, which acts as a substitute for sweat glands. Hydrogel, a gelatin-like substance, is mostly made up of water that is held in a sponge-like matrix which allows for water to easily evaporate. The top layer of the material is made up of aerogel, which simulates the fur. It allows for water vapor to pass through it while also keeping out any external heat.
Field tests on the new material show that it can provide cooling of more than seven degrees Celsius. It can also maintain that low temperature for five times longer than using hydrogel alone.
Researchers believe their cooling material can be used in the food packing industry to keep to preserve freshness on items that would spoil within a few days of being harvested. The material could also be used to keep vaccines safe when they’re being transported to remote locations. Current methods of delivering mediation to rural and remote locations require the use of huge storage facilities with cooling systems and expensive refrigerated trucks.
Inspired by camel fur, a new two-layer material could provide extended cooling to preserve the freshness of perishable goods. The approach, developed by researchers in @mit_dmse, harnesses evaporation to keep items like pharmaceuticals or produce cool. https://t.co/CeyAxuZu7j pic.twitter.com/ZentfDosvC
— Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (@MIT) November 12, 2020
There is however a downside to producing the material. The processing equipment needed to make aerogel is currently too expensive, meaning that aspect will require further development in order to scale up the system for useful applications.
Picture: MIT News