Apparel Startup Taps Space-age Technology

A Brandery accelerator graduate that uses material used by NASA to insulate spacesuits to make a jacket that can resist extreme cold is expanding its offerings to include more outerwear.

Oros was founded by two Miami University graduates, Michael Markesbery and Rithvik Venna, to produce a jacket using aerogel, the insulator NASA uses in spacesuits to withstand temperatures that are near absolute zero. They’re a 2015 graduate of the Brandery startup accelerator and on Feb. 1 they announced a new line of outerwear that includes gloves, a beanie and snow pants.

“We always knew we didn’t just want to do jackets,” Markesbery told me. “The beanies and gloves were issued because we were getting so many requests from customers.”

The reason they got so many requests for gloves and beanies stems from the kind of skin we have on our hands and ears. Unlike the rest of the human body, which constricts blood flow to the limbs and keeps heat in the body’s core as a response to cold, that blood constriction happens locally on the hands, ears and nose, Markesbery said. That’s why someone can work up a sweat while jogging in cold weather but their hands are still freezing.

Aerogel is a super-light insulator that lets very little heat through. A goose down jacket would have to be 40 millimeters thick to provide the same insulation as 3 millimeters of aerogel.

Oros has developed a proprietary formulation of Aerogel called Solarcore that is suitable for use in clothing. It can – and has – withstood being blasted by liquid nitrogen. You can check out that video at the end of this story.

The gloves in particular also contain another unique feature – they’re heated without using batteries or chemicals.

The science behind that, as explained by Markesbery, works like this: The gloves contain a layer of aerogel that acts as an insulator and then another layer of graphene. Graphene is the opposite of aerogel – where aerogel conducts very little heat, graphene heats up easily. So the natural body heat produced by the hands warms the graphene but the aerogel prevents it from escaping, creating gloves that stay warm without batteries.

The beanies are expected to retail for $40, the gloves $100 and the jacket $400.

Oros funded its initial production of jackets through crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, where it started with a goal of $100,000 and ended up raising $319,000. It’s turning back to Kickstarter to fund the production of the new line of apparel.

“We could either do what everyone else does and get a bank loan to bring these products to life or we could go back to the first people who backed us, the people who are the reason we’re even here today,” Markesbery said. “We thought that was a little more romantic than getting a loan.”

The Kickstarter campaign launched Feb. 1 with a goal of raising $310,000 by March 1.

The outerwear funded by the Kickstarter campaign will be available for the 2016-17 winter season, but Oros isn’t done after that. The company’s goal is to move into what it calls performance apparel, starting with things like yoga pants.

“I like to think that no matter what if you are doing an activity and need to wear a garment to do it, we consider that performance apparel,” Markesbery said. “We want to get thinner and lighter and warmer.”

Source: Cincinnati Business Courier, Andy Brownfield
Photo: Oros, which was developed by two Miami University graduates, is producing a line of outerwear using the same insulation used in NASA for spacesuits.

Brownfield covers retail and restaurants, technology, manufacturing and courts.