The clothing will use the latest in micro technology to produce material which will let in air to cool a wearer when it is hot and shut out air when it is cold. This is similar to a system used by pine cones to open up and emit seeds.
The University of Bath and the London College of Fashion are jointly researching the material, which they think could be in everyday use by people within a few years.
The project has been chosen as one of eight to represent UK science at the Expo 2005 in Japan from March to September next year, whose theme is Nature's Wisdom. The Expo is expected to attract 15 million visitors, and other UK science projects will be the Eden Project and the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew.
The smart garments will consist of a top layer of tiny spikes of water-absorbent material, possibly wool, each only 1/200th of a millimetre wide. When the wearer of the clothing gets hot and sweats, the tiny spikes in the material will react to the moisture and automatically open up, so that air from the outside can get through the material to cool the wearer. When the wearer stops sweating, the spikes will close down again to stop air getting in.
The lower layer will be of material that is not porous so that rain can never get through from the outside, whether the spikes are open or closed.
The technology of the material is being designed by the University of Bath's Centre for Biomimetics, which takes ideas from nature and turns them into new technology.
Its head, Professor Julian Vincent, said: "The new smart clothing will make wearers' lives much more comfortable by automatically adjusting their clothing to control their body temperature.
"We've all known days when the weather alters quickly and it's difficult to dress to match the changing temp
Contact: Tony Trueman
University of Bath