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MIT students develop wearable cooling device that could make air conditioning obsolete

By Drew PrindlePublished November 03, 2013Digital Trends

We come across quite a lot of cool technology, but it’s not every day that we find something that can literally cool you down.

Developed by four engineering students at MIT, Wristify is a prototype wearable device that leverages the physical phenomenon known as the Peltier effect to reduce your body temperature.

The Peltier effect, named for French physicist Jean Charles Athanase Peltier who discovered it in 1834, describes the phenomenon of heating or cooling caused by an electric current flowing across the junction of two different conductors. As the current moves from one conductor to another, the transfer of energy causes one side to heat up and the other to cool down.

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From what I can tell, this is

From what I can tell, this is only for comfort. While it may have marginal value fine tuning personal preferences, it doesn't solve issues where the ambient temperature is too high or too low for safety. This might even make those situations worse by tricking the body into not responding properly, leading to overheating in hot weather or illness in cold weather.

I've been looking into air conditioned clothes for years now because I live in a place where summer temperatures are often over 130 degrees. There is a market for this, but I haven't been able to figure out how to make it work. No one has been able to make it work.

So far there have only been two basic concepts that have had limited degrees of success.

The first is a liquid cooling vest. This is what Nascar drivers and firemen use. Unfortunately, you have to be tied to a cooler filled with ice water. It is really only good for extreme situations like lowering the temperature of firefighters when the exit burning buildings. A company took the liquid cooling concept and worked it into a portable vest a couple years ago. It sells for $500+ for extreme sports, but is only marginally effective. It produces far too much condensation for daily wear.

The second came out of the Japaneses energy crisis in the wake of Fukishima. This one is basically 2 computer cooling fans sown into a shirt. It does cool you some, but it doesn't actually lower the temperature of the air. It also makes you look like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man. Converting the fans into a swamp cooler does lower the air temperature, but it raises the humidity levels to the point where you lose much of the body's evaporation cooling power.

I'd love to find a real "air conditioned jacket" but, what these MIT students have done doesn't seem to be it.

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