A universal problem around bedding is how to keep people comfortable while they are sleeping. There are many different ways to accomplish this. However, one of the best ways is to use phase change materials (PCMs) to manage the temperature.
The concept is simple. When a person gets into bed, they gradually start warming it up as heat, released by their body, is trapped underneath the bedding and in the mattress, making an uncomfortable sleeping environment. This changes when PCMs are added. Now when the temperature of the bed rises, the PCM absorbs the heat and melts – starting its phase change and making the surrounding area feel cool. This can be seen in this graph. A mattress applied with PCMs is able to keep the subject approximately 5°C cooler for over 20 minutes.
The opposite happens when temperature falls. The PCM freezes, releasing heat and warming up the environment. As the PCMs fluctuate between these phases, they keep the bedding and mattress in a comfortable temperature range.
This concept has been successful in the bedding industry for years, either as an application to a foam mattress or an incorporation into a secondary item: mattress covers, pillows, and bed linens.
However, this overheating problem is not unique to the bedding industry. Companies have found that this same principle affects the comfort of their other furniture. Anytime the human body is in contact with fabric, the skin releases heat and the material warms up and traps heat.
From home furnishings to business environments, people spend a lot of time sitting or lying down. Since home and office furniture are built around the same materials as the bedding industry, any application that uses fabric or foam and is in contact with the body will get hot, creating discomfort.
Companies are investigating PCM application techniques that the bedding companies have mastered and realize that they could bring the same level of comfort to the rest of the home, as well as the workplace. By adding this cooling technology to their products, they could innovate their industry by providing an enhanced customer experience.