Students Take Advantage of Light’s Properties in their “Polar Bear Wear” Design

by Wyatt Miller, Lauren Noblitt, and Amanda Stump

Imagine a coat that utilizes total internal refection to collect heat. We were inspired by the belief that polar bear fur utilizes total internal reflection. We will use this theory along with biomimicry to create this invention. The coat is imagined to be self-heating, and its appearance will be similar to that of an alpaca coat. It will have a high collar to warm the neck and a hood to help the head warm. There will be two perfectly placed pockets to make sure the hands can also stay heated. Also, there will be a zipper in the front that will zip all the way up to the chin. The coat will use an artificial fabric to mimic polar bear fur.

Photo credit: Faux White Fur Jacket. Photograph. The Parka Pages. Web. 12 Jan. 2012.

Our design will mimic the polar bear’s double coat with short hairs that insulate the heat captured by the long hairs that trap the sunlight. Our first product, a jacket, will include a fabric lining of soft cotton and the artificial polar bear fur will utilize a fabric made of millions of fiber optic strands. The fabric will have two layers: short insulating fibers and long sunlight trapping fibers. The long outer layer of fabric will be shaped into tiny, microscopic strand-like tubes. The small tubes will collect sunlight using total internal reflection and create heat that will be insulated by the short fur layer underneath. The whole jacket will have this artificial fur so the humans head, arms, and torso will be consistently heated.


Today, there are many products that use total internal reflection. Some examples are diamonds, prismatic binoculars, flashlight lenses, and lights that use spatial filtering. Diamonds utilize total internal reflection by taking in the light, then reflecting it back onto a surface. “Because diamonds have a high index of refraction (about 2.3), the critical angle for the total internal reflection is only about 25 degrees. Incident light therefore strikes many of the internal surfaces before it strikes one less than 25 degrees and then emerges. After many such reflections, the colors in the light are separated, and seen individually” (Total Internal Reflection: Diamonds & Fiber Optics).

“Prismatic binoculars revolutionized the binocular by using two prisms back-to-back or other arrangements of prisms to rebound light and effectively extend the distance between objective and eyepiece thus compacting the tube while at the same time increasing the ratio of focal lengths between the two lenses, resulting in higher magnification” (Spatz). Flashlights use total internal reflection by using a light bulb as a source of light. The light then bounces off of the lenses located underneath the light bulb. All of these products use total internal reflection for light and sight purposes; our product will use total internal reflection for heating purposes. There are many other great clothing companies today that have clothes that keep you warm as well. These include The North Face, Columbia, Nike and many more. These companies use fake fur; but none of them use fiber optics for warmth. Our product will be the new standard for warmth and winter fashion.


Elliot, Jason. “Facts About Polar Fleece.” Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <;.

Faux White Fur Jacket. Photograph. The Parka Pages. Web. 12 Jan. 2012. <;

“How Do Polar Bears Stay Warm?” WiseGEEK. Web. 7 Dec. 2011. <;.

Purt, Jenny. “What Is Biomimicry?” Theguardian. 29 Sept. 2011. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <;.

Stanley, C. M. “Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence.” Nature|methods. CHROMA. Web. 6 Dec. 2011. <;.

“Total Internal Reflection: Diamonds & Fiber Optics.” Stony Brook Laser Teaching Center. 2000. Web. 07 Dec. 2011.

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