Polar Bears International

There's a lot to learn from polar bears, such as how to keep warm in the Arctic.

© BJ Kirschhoffer/Polar Bears International

2/6/2014 2:04:16 PM

Polar Bear Fur May Hold the Secret to Ultrathin Insulation

What's warmer than a polar bear in January? Not a whole lot, as it turns out.

Now we might be able to take advantage of polar bear technology to stay warm. A new study finds that polar bear fur may hold the secret for ultrathin insulation.

Published by the journal Optics Express, the study was partially motivated by observations of the ability of polar bears to maintain their body temperatures at over 98 degrees F, even during very long, cold winter months when outdoor temperatures can reach a frigid -40 degrees F (particularly impressive given that the bears have a covering of hair that is only two inches thick.)

It was previously thought that feathers and fur kept polar bears, and other animals, warm by trapping a layer of air that slows thermal conduction and loss of body heat. But using computer models--no polar bears were harmed--biophotonics scientist Priscilla Simonis and her team found that heat loss between two bodies separated by air was more affected by radiation than by conduction.

The results of the study could be used to create ultrathin building insulation or a new wave of sleeping bags and outdoor clothing. Maybe one day we will be as cozy as a polar bear in January.

Read more at Red Orbit.

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