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Get ready to flaunt your rugged leather jackets and tight leather pants in summer – scientists from the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), Chennai, have invented a leather that is 3 degrees cooler than room temperature.

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Leaders in Leather : (L-R) Dr. Raghava Rao J. and Dr. Nishad Ahmed at their lab at CLRI

“We wanted to create leather that could sense the environment and adjust accordingly; basically the idea was to make leather more intelligent”, says Dr. Nishad Ahmed.

Phase_change_materials_how_it_works
source: http://www.homebuilding.co.uk

During the tanning process, leather is treated with PCMs (Phase changing materials). When exposed to warmth, the PCMs absorb the heat, turning liquid and preventing heat transference and keeping the inside of the leather 3 degrees cooler.

The scientists next look to make the leather 10 degrees cooler.

“In another 6 months we should be able to come up with something tangible.” says Dr. Raghava Rao J, Chief Scientist, CLRI, adding that large scale producers were waiting for the extension before investing in it. “Then it will sell like hot cakes” adds Dr. Ahmed with a smile.

Market Demand :

Started in 2012 as part of the 12th Five Year Plan, this project is furthered boosted by the fact that the Make in India initiative for leather goods predicts a 27 billion dollar trade target by 2020.

Heat-resistant leather gloves Source: www.metalclay.com.au
Heat-resistant leather gloves
Source: http://www.metalclay.com.au

However, the duo haven’t patented the leather yet.“We want this technology to be known to the world. We thought we’ll put it in the public domain and if anyone is interested in developing this technology, we will tell them how to go about it” says Dr. Ahmed.

The scientists see the leather being mainly used in industries involved in working with high temperatures. “With this leather, the inside of industrial leather gloves will  remain cool even inside blazing ovens as there is no transference of heat” says Dr. Ahmed. Dr. Rao adds that this leather would be particularly useful in areas like Andhra Pradesh where heat-related illnesses are very common.

“It is good research” says D. Rajashekar, Centre Coordinator, Leather Design, National Institute of Leather Design. He adds that the success of such leather would largely depend on the cost, as most people were lately switching to synthetic material since it was cheaper, but expresses concern over how leather would behave in extreme climatic conditions.

Health Impact:

Dr. Raghava Rao said there was no health risk and added that the PCM was encapsulated inside the tanning agent, preventing it from leaking outside even in its liquid form.

However, senior dermatologist Dr. Muralidhar Rajagopalan, said it was too early to rule out health risks. “It seems like a good idea, but we need to know what the leather contains before giving it a clean chit”. he said, adding that wearing leather in hot weather generally causes skin irritation as leather doesn’t breathe and traps heat.

Meanwhile, the international leather community is all praise for the smart leather, with Martin Ricker, Content Director, International Leather Maker recently tweeting about it.

While Indian leather goods are sought all the world for their quality and finish, only time will tell if this “smart leather” will dominate the global market and change the ways Indians in particular, look at leather and everyday apparel.

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