Due out in 2013, Columbia Sportwear recently announced their latest innovation – Omni-Freeze ZERO athletic Cooling shirts.
This new product is in the same category as other cooling performance shirts I’ve covered here including Fros-T and FamouslyFit Physicool T-Shirt, and appears to be the next generation Columbia product possibly replacing their Omni-Freeze ICE product line. Back in 2008, I came across some other interesting information about cooling shirt technologies used in sports, which coincidentally refers to some gear Columbia made back then.
After reading through some details about the Omni-Freeze ZERO announcement, on the surface, it appears to be vastly different from anything I’ve come across before.
The most interesting part is that the cooling technology is physically embedded onto/into the fabric in the form of thousand of tiny cooling circles. Here’s an excerpt from the company’s website Omni-Freeze ZERO product page:
Our coolest innovation yet, Omni-Freeze ZERO sweat-activated cooling launches in spring 2013. Its little blue rings concentrate a cooling agent close to your skin and capitalize on your sweat to lower the overall temperature of the fabric, accelerate the wicking process, and provide an instant and prolonged cooling.
Here some other excerpts about this new fabric technology from a few different web sources:
How it works: The material is a polymer that is printed as tiny blue rings on the inside face of polyester fabrics. As Columbia explains it, the soft rings absorb sweat and cool it during the mechanical process of absorption. This leaves the slightly chilled polymer rings laying against the skin. In effect, the technology uses sweat as fuel to run these tiny cooling machines; that’s about 41,000 tiny cooling packs in an Omni-Freeze Zero infused medium T-shirt.
These blue rings contain hydrophilic molecules, which get excited when they come in contact of water, which is sweat in this case, and try to separate. This separation requires some kind of an energy, which is harnessed in the form of body heat. The developers claim that the fabric doesn’t require you to be completely wet with sweat for the technology to start working, rather it just needs the slightest bit of moisture for the passive cooling effect to begin.
The material boasts a special polymer that doesn’t get rid of sweat, but absorbs it into visible—and graphically pleasant—little blue rings for an actual cooling effect. When exposed to moisture the polymer rings swell like goose bumps for an instant and enduring cool-down.
Essentially, as Blackford explains it, the donut shapes suck up sweat and then react to the moisture. On a molecular level, things stir around and jingle in the polymer donuts to a point where the resulting reaction pulls heat from your skin. In addition, the sweat-filled donuts also aid in wicking sweat, Blackford continued, adding extra cooling via evaporative effect.
Columbia Omni-Freeze ZERO Promotional Video
Omni-Freeze ZERO Press Release
COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR PREVIEWS OMNI-FREEZE® ZERO
New and unique visual apparel cooling technology to be released to consumers in Spring 2013 and to select athletes much sooner
PORTLAND, Ore. — June 11, 2012 — Columbia Sportswear, a global leader in active outdoor apparel, footwear and accessories, today announced the upcoming Spring 2013 availability of Omni-Freeze ZERO, the company’s latest groundbreaking apparel technology.
Omni-Freeze ZERO is the culmination of a four-year effort to develop a new, revolutionary line of apparel that becomes cooler in hot, moist conditions. Distinctive little blue rings, embedded and visible in the fabric of Omni-Freeze ZERO apparel and footwear, contain a special cooling polymer. When exposed to sweat or moisture, these rings actually swell (similar to goose bumps) creating an instant and prolonged cooling sensation.
“Historically, outdoor and athletic brands have looked at sweating as a problem…something to be wicked away with so-called ‘technical,’ decades-old polyester fabrics,” said Mick McCormick, executive vice president. “Omni-Freeze ZERO is an entirely new approach, and unlike anything the industry has ever seen. We see sweat as a renewable resource that will allow athletes, outdoor enthusiasts or anyone that spends time in hot, humid conditions to sweat smarter, staying more comfortable.”
Columbia will release the new technology to consumers in the spring of 2013. Omni-Freeze ZERO will be integrated across a line of 40 styles that will include men’s and women’s shirts, performance layers, headwear, sleeves and other accessories. Columbia will also add Omni-Freeze ZERO to its Powerdrain footwear models to keep the shoes cool in hot weather. The full line is designed to keep consumers and athletes comfortable from head to toe, even as temperature records continue to rise.
Omni-Freeze ZERO is the latest in a string of new technologies developed by Columbia’s Performance Innovation Team (PIT). The PIT is the research and innovation division of Columbia Sportswear Company tasked with developing revolutionary consumer solutions for the company’s entire brand portfolio, which includes Columbia, Sorel, Mountain Hardwear, and Montrail.
“We see Omni-Freeze ZERO as a real game changer in terms of how people think about performance and comfort in hot weather,” said Woody Blackford, vice president of innovation and head of the Performance Innovation Team. “In general, people remove clothing layers to stay cool, but sponsored athletes using Omni-Freeze ZERO have noted that in hot humid conditions, this is the first technology that feels cooler and more comfortable than wearing nothing at all. We’re continuing to test the properties of this new technology in our lab and are sponsoring independent laboratory research.”