You've probably seen runners wrapped in what looks like tin foil after long races to keep them warm – this lightweight' survival blanket' inspired Columbia's Omni-Heat technology. Researchers at the Portland-based brand were fascinated by the heat-retention properties of the sheet, so they set out a challenge to create a fabric inspired by survival blankets and their warming properties while allowing breathability.
12 years ago, when the Omni-Heat-Reflective technology was launched, everyone on the market seemed to have used the same technology for their jackets, which involved using different types of trapped air insulation. "We figured there had to be something else to do", says Haskell Beckam, Innovation VP at Columbia, "and that's when we came across the survival blankets." Their construction is very simple; it is an aluminium foil deposited on a plastic film which reflects body heat.
Light and excellent insulators survival blankets might be, they aren’t breathable, admittedly a desired feature of outdoor clothing, such as coats, jackets etc. “We discovered how to apply and print little aluminium dots onto a fabric so the space between the aluminium could still breathe, and the moisture could still get out from the body”, explains Beckam, “while the garment still drapes and behaves like a fabric.”
The original Omni-Heat Reflective provided about 30% coverage – the area on the jacket covered by the aluminium foil technology – because, at the time, engineers at Columbia thought that was a good balance between breathability and heat reflection. However, the team later recognised they could go further, reflect more body heat and set a higher standard in warmth. The new Omni-Heat Infinity features a 50% aluminium coverage distributed on the whole surface of the fabric – the increased foil coverage means increased heat reflection and warmth while maintaining breathability.
The Omni-Heat Infinity's reflective fabric is made of more than 80 dots per square inch. All of them are covered by a coating on top of the metal to protect the aluminium from oxidation, abrasion and washing. Thanks to the versatility of Omni-Heat-Infinity, the material has a range of applications and can be added to different products, including waterproof parkas, down puffer jackets, and more.
“We have implemented the Omni-Heat Infinity technology in outdoor products as well as in more urban products”, adds Beckam, “We think that you need to stay warm while hiking in the mountains as much as commuting to work. That's why we thrive developing multipurpose and multifunction products that can be worn in the city and the wilderness.”
But the capabilities of the technology go beyond this. In fact, Omni-Heat Infinity will insulate Intuitive Machines' lunar lander against the extreme temperatures on the Moon. “Inspired by the reflective technology used by NASA, our Omni-Heat Infinity technology has been tested in many challenging environments on Earth, but the Moon represents a first for us”, said Joe Boyle, Columbia brand president, “We’re looking forward to collaborating with Intuitive Machines on their upcoming mission as we continue to push our technology to new heights.”
Find out more about Omni-Heat Infinity at Columbia.