The People’s Liberation Army will start clothing its troops stationed along China’s borders with a thermal textile inspired by the fur of polar bears.
The high-tech material has very low thermal conductivity, which can prevent heat loss, the People’s Daily newspaper quoted Bai Hao, a research fellow at Zhejiang University’s (ZJU) College of Chemical and Biological Engineering, as saying.
A polar bear’s fur has a hollow core, which helps keep the bear warm and reduces infrared radiation emissions from the animal’s body, which mitigates heat loss in severe cold.
The bears’ fur has another advantage in that it can conceal the animals from thermal imaging cameras used in many night-vision devices. One can easily the military attraction of any copycat material.
To imitate the fur’s structure, the ZJU team mixed silk with water, then slowly squeezed the mixture, at a low temperature, through a syringe and into a device where the new fabric forms in a frozen state.
Bai said the material results in garments with better heat retention capabilities and is also cheaper than down.
The exact composition of the new “polar bear” frock coat has already been patented, the PLA Daily reports.
A substantial portion of China’s 22,100-kilometer border runs through semi-polar regions, highlands and plateaus, from the frigid northeast border with Russia’s Siberia to the Himalayas in Tibet. Soldiers have to brave severe cold in winter when patrolling and responding to emergencies.
Temperatures in the northernmost Chinese county of Mohe, in Heilongjiang province, can plunge to as low as -35°C, which can be a big drag on combat capabilities and even the well-being of troops. The PLA’s top brass have long been on the hunt for better materials to keep soldiers warm.
It is believed that Chinese President Xi Jinping has already worn a “polar bear” coat on several occasions, including when he inspected sites for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in February of last year and presided over a military drill in Inner Mongolia this January.