Korean researchers at the Center for Nanoparticle Research, Institute for Basic Science in Seoul have developed a stretchable silver nanowire mesh that heats your joints no matter how you bend them. (IBS was founded in 2011 by the government of the Republic of Korea with the sole purpose of driving forward the development of basic science in Korea It comprises a total of 50 research centers in all fields of basic science, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, life science, earth science and interdisciplinary science. IBS has launched 24 research centers as of January 2015.There are eight physics, one mathematics, six chemistry, seven life science, and two interdisciplinary research centers.)
Silver nanowires are miniscule, averaging around 150 nm in diameter and 30 μm in length. This nanowire mesh works perfectly fine irrespective of how much you bend them. 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.
In material flexibility tests, while placed on knee and wrist joints, the mesh heated while deformed and under stress on knee and wrist joints. It is lightweight, breathable and generates heat over the entire surface area of the material. A hot water bottle used for treating muscle soreness feels good, but it will inevitably cool down while in use. 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.
Beyond thermotherapy, the applications are endless. This technology could be used as a lightweight heating element in ski jackets, or as a hyper-efficient seat warmer in a car. Although only flat mesh connected into a tube has been made so far, it isn’t a stretch to imagine creating more intricate designs like the shape of a hand with detailed fingers.