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Advanced control of heat flow could lead to major developments in outdoor tech     Photo: Jochen Sand/Thinkstock

New Technology Manages Heat Flow

Is this the future of outerwear?

A study out of Purdue University has refined a technology that might be able to manage the flow of heat. Similar to devices that control the direction of electrical currents, these findings could potentially control heat flow in everything from electronics to textiles.

"For example, on a winter night you don't want a building to lose heat quickly to the outside, while during the day you want the building to be warmed up by the sun, so it would be good to have building materials that permit the flow of heat in one direction but not the other," explained Xiulin Ruan, an associate professor at Purdue.

“Asymmetric grapheme nanoribbons” were the missing link. Researchers believe these new findings will allow the use of thermal control in a variety of applications, including computers, electronics, buildings, and clothing.

Thermal rectification has been studied extensively before; however, this new study has made a breakthrough in discovering the use of minuscule triangular or T-shaped structures to permit more heat flow in one direction than the other.


Image: Courtesy of Purdue University


Meanwhile, an unusually strong winter storm has ravaged the southern United States, stranding commuters, closing schools, and blowing semi trucks right off the road. States of emergency were declared in Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana, and South Carolina as early as Monday in preparation for the winter conditions, but few were prepared for the near-total paralysis of major urban areas.

The weather has forced more than 3,400 commercial flights in the region to be canceled and another 2,000 to be delayed.

Atlanta in particular has turned into a traffic nightmare, with some commuters stuck on the road as long as 19 hours. Weary travelers even took to spending the night in grocery stores and pharmacies.

There have also been reports of hundreds of stranded students spending the night in libraries and gymnasiums, unable to return home.

In Texas, more than 300 traffic accidents have been reported since the storm began. In the city of Austin, police chief Art Acevedo says they are dealing with about 40 accidents every hour.

Although this may seem like an inordinate amount of chaos for just a few inches of snow, most people in the region are unaccustomed to driving in such conditions, and many cities lack the infrastructure to deal with even infrequent winter storms.


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