Is Electrified Gold The Future of Waterproof Breathable Membranes?

One of the biggest challenges for any waterproof breathable membrane is to transport moisture out of your jacket at a fast enough rate in absolutely all conditions and activity levels. A Swiss-Norwegian research and development company believes they may have found the solution with their new Hydro_Bot technology.

Instead of simply relying on the passive nature of water vapor transmission through the membrane, Osmotex’s Hydro_Bot technology makes it an active process through electro-osmosis. To do this, the membrane, with a thickness of 20 micrometers, is plasma-coated on both sides with small amounts of gold. When a 1.5 volt current is applied to the gold, salt ions and the surrounding liquid migrate through tiny pores in the membrane to the outside. Even without a current, moisture passes through the membrane. However, as soon as the current is applied, the transmission rate increases significantly.

The membrane is equipped with a conventional battery, which can be switched on to up the water vapor transmission rate depending on the weather or your current level of activity.

The company claims that Hydro_Bot can pump up to 200 liters per square meter of fabric per hour, electronically controlled and independent of climatic conditions. As this is almost 200 times faster than most waterproof breathable membranes out there today, it’s safe to say this will increase the comfort and performance of any jacket.

To understand how Hydro_Bot works, let’s take a very simplified view at the science behind water vapor transmission. Because water vapor is free to move in all directions within a membrane, the net flow is determined by the concentration of water vapor on both sides — this is called the driving force. Factors such as temperature and relative humidity can drastically affect this rate of transfer.

By applying a current to both sides of the membrane, Hydro_Bot effectively controls and sets the driving force, meaning the moisture vapor created from your sweat will transfer out of the jacket at a constant rate, regardless of the conditions outside or how hard you are working.

Kjus will be one of the first partners to integrate Hydro_Bot technology in a line of jackets for next winter. Schoeller has also signed an agreement to use the technology so expect to see it incorporated by many more brands over the next couple of years.

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