Southport, England--Robert Rix, founder of Gorix Ltd., has invented a fabric he hopes will replace the wires of traditional seat-heating systems by serving as the heat source itself. The nonthermostatic fabric adjusts its energy needs based on the thermal load it receives. The colder a person's body, the more heat the system puts out. Moreover, the heat is distributed evenly over the entire surface of the fabric--each fiber of each thread acts as a conductor.
Rix's system starts with a "synthetic, carbonized, polymer-based material" he cooks in a special oven until it becomes pure carbon. To give the fabric its electro-conductive properties requires enhanced spinning and weaving. A 10% imbalance between the warp and the weft of the weave amounts to only a slight difference in textile terms, but it results in a 50% difference in electrical properties. This allows Rix to orient the material to suit the end-product. Most important, it gives seat makers unlimited set resistance values and space considerations, he claims.
In a car seat, a wire carries current through creases and corners that normally exist in the foam. A copper bus bar at the edges of the fabric then carries the current to the electro-conductive fabric. This, in turn, is laminated to the back of the face fabric, leather, or vinyl seat surface. The system enables the entire seat to act as a heater, but distributes the heat in a uniform thermal pattern only to the area where the occupant sits. Wire heaters, on the other hand, concentrate their heat only around the wires.
The system is now under evaluation "by a leading U.S. automaker," Rix confirms, with full prduction in one and a half years.