Wearable air conditioners: The portable heat manager

Image credit

Wearable air conditioners: The portable heat manager

Thrive from future trends

Subscribe today to equip your team with the leading trend and foresight platform used by multidisciplinary, future-focused teams working across departments in Strategy, Innovation, Product Development, Investor Research, and Consumer Insights. Convert industry trends into practical insights for your business.

Starting at $15/month

Wearable air conditioners: The portable heat manager

Subheading text
Scientists attempt to beat the rising heat by designing wearable air conditioners that convert body temperature into electricity.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • April 18, 2023

    As global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, many regions are experiencing prolonged periods of intense heat that can be difficult to manage. In response, wearable air conditioners are being developed, particularly for people who spend much time outdoors or work in hot environments. These devices provide a portable, personal cooling system that can help reduce the risk of heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses.

    Wearable air conditioners context

    Wearable air conditioners can be worn like clothing or accessories to provide a personal cooling system. Sony's wearable air conditioner, released in 2020, is an example of this technology. The device weighs only 80 grams and can be charged via USB. It connects to smartphones via Bluetooth, and users can control the temperature settings through an app. The device has a silicon pad that can be pressed against the skin to absorb and release heat, providing a customizable cooling experience.

    In addition to wearable air conditioners, researchers in China are exploring thermoelectric (TE) textiles, which can convert body heat into electric charge. These fabrics are stretchable and bendable, making them ideal for clothing and other wearables. The technology produces a cooling effect as it generates electricity, which can be employed to charge other devices. This approach offers a more sustainable solution, as it allows for energy recycling and reduces the need for external power sources. These innovations demonstrate the potential for creative solutions to the challenges posed by climate change. 

    Disruptive impact

    As the impacts of climate change continue to unfold, there will likely be further developments in this area as researchers work to discover innovative solutions that can help people adapt to a changing world. For example, Sony's wearable AC comes with customized shirts with a pocket between the shoulder blades where the device can sit. The device can last two to three hours and reduce surface temperature by 13 degrees Celsius. 

    Meanwhile, a group of Chinese researchers is currently testing a mask with a cooling ventilation unit. The mask itself is 3D printed and is compatible with disposable masks. Using the TE technology, the AC mask system has a filter that protects against viruses and a thermoregulation unit at the bottom. 

    Cool air is blown through the tunnel within the thermoregulation unit in exchange for the heat the mask produces. The researchers hope the use case will expand to the construction and manufacturing industries to prevent respiratory difficulties. Meanwhile, researchers of TE textiles are looking to combine the technology with other fabrics to lower body temperatures by as much as 15 degrees Celsius. Moreover, having a portable cooling mechanism can reduce the use of traditional ACs, which consume a lot of electricity.

    Implications of wearable air conditioners

    Wider implications of wearable air conditioners may include:

    • Other wearable devices, such as smartwatches and headsets, using TE technology to reduce body temperature while being constantly charged.
    • Clothing and wearable industries teaming up to produce compatible accessories to store portable ACs, especially sportswear.
    • Smartphone manufacturers using TE technology to turn phones into portable ACs while preventing gadget overheating.
    • Reduced risk of heat exhaustion and stroke, particularly among workers in the construction, agriculture, and logistics industries.
    • Athletes using wearable air-conditioned gear and apparel to help regulate their body temperature, allowing them to perform at their best. 
    • Reduced energy consumption by allowing individuals to cool themselves instead of cooling entire buildings.
    • People with conditions that can cause heat sensitivity benefiting from wearable air conditioners that allow them to stay cool and comfortable. 
    • Wearable air conditioners becoming essential for elderly individuals who are more susceptible to heat stress. 
    • Military personnel operating for longer periods without succumbing to heat stress. 
    • Wearable air conditioners making outdoor activities like hiking and sightseeing more comfortable and enjoyable for tourists in hot climates. 
    • Emergency responders being able to stay comfortable while they work during natural disasters, such as wildfires and heatwaves. 

    Questions to consider

    • Are you interested in wearing portable ACs?
    • What are the other possible ways that TE technology can be used to reduce body heat?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: