From clean up to warm up

Published on April 24th, 2012
From clean up to warm up

What’s thinner than a pad of paper but able to keep you as warm as a bundle of blankets? And what does it have to do with oil spills? It’s time to find out…

About 30 years ago, a company called 3M created an extremely strong, absorbent material to clean up oil spills.

Then one cold day, while they were on a clean-up mission, the 3M engineers noticed that volunteers were wrapping the material around their shoulders to keep their bodies warm. And hey presto, the idea for a smart product was born!

When the engineers took the material back to the lab, they discovered that it trapped body heat extremely well, even though it was much less bulky than the usual insulation fabrics. And so they created Thinsulate™, a wonderful warm-up material that’s now found in everything from hats, gloves, shoes and bedding to cars and even airplane cockpits!

But how does it work?

Just like feathers trap a bird’s body heat to keep the tweeter toasty, the super-thin fibres inside Thinsulate™ trap air molecules between your skin and the outer environment… and because the fibers are so incredibly fine, they can trap quite a lot of air in a small space, keeping you nice and warm without making the material too thick to let moisture escape. Here’s a quick diagram of how the smart stuff works…