Shaquille O’Neal better do those IcyHot commercials while he still can, because there’s a new piece of wearable tech on the loose that does pretty much the same thing — but it’s also reusable, and doesn’t rely on chemicals to work.
A team of researchers led by scientists at the Center for Nanoparticle Research at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) in Seoul have created a silver mesh sleeve made of nanowire that produces heat and stays on your joints, no matter how much you move, shake, and bend them. Whereas previous technologies have developed similar solutions, this is the first to be both cost effective and actually effective, with a mesh that wraps easily around any part of the body and stays put, providing constant, soothing relief.
In a press release, IBS explains, “The silver nanowires are tiny, averaging ∼150 nm in diameter and ∼30 μm in length (a human hair ranges from 17 to 181 µm). The nanowires were mixed into a liquid elastic material which is both soft and stretchy when dry.” Furthermore, “To ensure that the material remains tight on the target area while heating, the team devised a 2-D interlocking coil pattern for the mesh structure. To make the mesh, the liquid mixture was poured into a shaped mold. The silver-elastic mesh was sandwiched between a top and bottom layer of soft, thin insulation.”
The mesh outstrips its traditional competitors in more ways than one — not only is it supremely malleable, but it also maintains a constant temperature for as long as your sore muscles may need it to do so. Says IBS, “Commercially available electric heating pads are sufficient for applying heat to an injured area but their cords need to be attached to an A/C outlet to work. This is where the new technology trumps the old. The mesh maintains a constant temperature instead of cooling down during use and is battery powered so it doesn’t need an outlet.”
While there’s no word yet on when the average consumer will be able to buy such a life-changing piece of wearable technology, scientists believe that once the silver nanowire mesh hits the market, the applications will be endless. “This technology could be used as a lightweight heating element in ski jackets,” IBS says, “Or as a hyper-efficient seat warmer in a car.” Better yet, the nanowires could be molded to form a glove so that entire areas of your body could be completely covered by a warm, relaxing material.
So get ready to get rid of those IcyHot patches. There’s a new nanowire in town.