Science Fair Project:

Moisture Wicking Fabric

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The goals of the project are to have the student test a preliminary hypothesis about whether fabrics made of natural or synthetic fibers will be better at wicking way moisture away, and then revise the hypothesis if necessary to accommodate new data.

  • How well do natural fibers wick away moisture?
  • How well do synthetic fibers wick away moisture?

Fabrics that offer the best protection against severe heat loss (hypothermia) in winter allow moisture to easily escape from the body. In these materials, moisture travels along the surface of the fibers without being absorbed by them – a process known as wicking. This allows the wicked moisture to spread throughout the fabric so that it can easily evaporate away.

  • Selected fabrics; scale
  • The fabrics to be tested will typically be available in the home. Scales may be purchased at Walmart-type stores.

  1. Assemble an assortment of clothing fabrics. Include fabrics made of natural materials such as cotton, silk, linen and wool; and synthetic materials such as polyester (conventional and microfiber), nylon, and polypropylene.
  2. Thoroughly dry each of the fabric samples to be tested, then measure and record the dry weight of each sample.
  3. Place a drop of water on each of the fabric samples and observe what happens. Record your findings.
  4. Based on your initial findings, formulate a hypothesis to predict whether natural or synthetic materials will be better a wicking away moisture from your body.
  5. Using a spray bottle filled with water, moisten one of the fabric samples. Immediately weigh it and record the value.
  6. Calculate and record the amount of moisture introduced into the sample by subtracting the initial dry weight from the fabric weight immediately after moistening it.
  7. Measure and record the weight of the fabric after it has been drying in air for 10 minutes.
  8. Calculate the total weight of moisture lost by the sample after 10 minutes by subtracting the final weight from the weight immediately after moistening the sample. This is the amount of moisture wicked away from the material.
  9. Divide the weight of moisture wicked away by the weight of moisture introduced into the sample. This is a relative measure of the wicking ability of the sample.
  10. Repeat these steps for each fabric sample to be tested.
  11. Test your hypothesis by comparing the relative wicking values for each of the fabrics tested. If necessary, revise your hypothesis and perform another experiment.
Material

Water drop behavior

Fabric 1

Fabric 2

Fabric 3

Fabric 4

Fabric 5

Dry weight

Moistened weight

Weight difference after moistening

Weight difference after drying for 10 min

Weight of moisture wicked away

Relative amount of moisture wicked away

Fabric 1

Fabric 2

Fabric 3

Fabric 4

Fabric 5

Terms/Concepts: Wicking; Hypothermia; Natural fibers; Synthetic fibers

References:

Author: Randall Frost, Ph.D.
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