Like skin, the fabric causes excess sweat to form into droplets that drain away by themselves, scientists at the University of California, Davis, reported Tuesday.
Graduate students Siyuan Xing and Jia Jiang developed a new "microfluidic" textile using hydrophilic [water-attracting] threads stitched into a highly water-repellent fabric.
A pattern of the threads sucks droplets of water from one side of the fabric, propels them along the threads and expels them from the other side while the rest of the fabric remains completely dry and breathable, they said.
And unlike conventional fabrics the water-pumping effect keeps working even when the water-conducting fibers are completely saturated, they said, unlike alternatives like cotton which can wick away sweat but become clingy and uncomfortable when soaked.
Workout enthusiasts, athletes and clothing manufacturers are all interested in fabrics that remove sweat and let the skin breathe, the researchers said, which makes their technology an attractive option.
"We intentionally did not use any fancy microfabrication techniques so it is compatible with the textile manufacturing process and very easy to scale up," project leader Xing said.