ARPA-E Blog Skyscrape US Olympic Team Thermo Adaptive Textiles Intelligent Insulation

Team USA Debuts Winter Olympics Garments with Skyscrape’s ‘Intelligent Insulation’

Olympians Brave the Cold in Thermo-Adaptive Textiles

ARPA-E awardee Skyscrape recently teamed up with Ralph Lauren to incorporate ‘Intelligent Insulation’ into Team USA’s Opening Ceremony Parade Uniform for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The uniform includes a parka made with Skyscrape’s temperature-responsive insulating fabric, as well as a mid-layer jacket, pant, gloves, and boots. The uniforms are made with recycled polyester fiber composed of post-consumer plastic bottles, each proudly manufactured in the United States. 

ARPA-E originally funded the thermo-adaptive textile technology at the core of Team USA’s parade uniform to improve the energy efficiency of heating and cooling systems.

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) accounts for 13% of energy consumed in the U.S. and 40% of the energy used in a typical U.S. residence each year.  ARPA- E has funded many initiatives that support advancements in heating technologies in the residential and industrial spaces over the years, including our SHIELD and GENSETS programs, both designed to improve energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings. ARPA-E’s DELTA program took a wildly different approach to energy savings, supporting the development of localized thermal management systems to modify the space directly around our bodies rather than the buildings we occupy. 

Through the DELTA program, ARPA- E funded a team from Otherlab, a Bay Area technology incubator working on technologies with the goal of 100% decarbonization. Otherlab received over $5 million in funding through DELTA in 2015 to develop innovative textile materials that could change thickness, insulation, and shape as temperatures change. The different fibers expand differently depending on temperature, leading to a significant change in the length of the layers of fabric and adjusting the fabric’s insulating properties in response to temperature. When the temperature drops, the fabric increases insulation by trapping more air in pockets. When temperatures rise, the fabric flattens out and releases the insulating air. This technology operates completely passively, meaning there are no manual controls. Instead, it is a purposeful structure and layering of fibers, with each fiber having different expansion properties.

ARPA-E Skyscrape Otherlab US Olympics Jacket Thermo-Adaptive Textiles.    

Photo credit: Skyscrape

As these innovative textiles met their targets for technical success toward the end of the project’s period of performance at ARPA-E, Otherlab formed the spinoff company we now know as Skyscrape to commercialize these temperature-responsive shape-changing materials. Skyscrape has developed a futuristic jacket that adapts to surrounding temperatures and can be worn both indoors and outdoors, a significant leap forward for garments which could lead to significant energy savings for homeowners by decreasing the need for heating and cooling temperature for buildings. These garments promise thermal comfort across multiple seasons and in transitions from indoor to outdoor environments, reducing the need for multiple garments and simplifying how individuals think about their wardrobe.

ARPA-E has long recognized that supporting the development of heating technologies personalized to individuals can alleviate the load on building managers, significantly reduce heating demands, and increase cost savings. The technology Skyscrape has developed with ARPA-E is the basis for Team USA’s Opening Ceremonies jacket. ARPA-E is excited for Team USA to stay warm and get the gold in style with Skyscrape’s ‘Intelligent Insulation.’