StayCool: QinetiQ’s smart technology helps protect against extreme heat

Raj Singh, Capability Lead for Devices, Smart Technologies

In another example of applying its engineering expertise to provide commercial solutions, QinetiQ has been part of the EU team that developed StayCool™ technology, which tested successfully in fire-fighting clothing.

The cooling garments have been fitted with pipes in the form of patches, which allow heat from the fire-fighter to escape. The heat is transported within the patch to a heat exchanger, and then carried out into the environment.

Early prototype heat pipe patch

Early prototype heat pipe patch

The pipe cooling concept is not new; it’s been used previously in computers, industrial cooling, and space satellites. However, working with our partners, we have adapted and developed the technology, and QinetiQ now holds the patent.

Traditional heat protection clothing has enabled fire-fighters to continue working in extreme conditions, but very often these personnel actually suffer from internal heat damage to their organs because their heating and cooling systems are not allowed to operate in the normal way. Essentially, StayCool mimics the human cyclic system of sweating and cooling, and acts in a very similar way to our natural cooling processes, providing a sophisticated form of protection to those working in extreme heat conditions. Essentially, the heat pipe method uniquely allows cooling to take place without chilling the person, which is one of the drawbacks of using a traditional liquid-cooled vest.

Two years of EU-funded testing, in collaboration with our industrial partners – NWTextnet (UK), EVA Commerce (Bulgaria), Makatec (Germany), Eagle Technical Fabrics (UK), Inspirilia (Spain) and Centrocot (Italy) – was recently completed successfully. We have been able to develop and demonstrate hardware prototypes using a human subject under laboratory conditions. This was followed up by an assessment by West Midland Fire Services, which was pleased with the cooling effect of the garments; it now requires design improvements to increase its ergonomical efficiency.

The patches are based on laminated plastic technology, which importantly provides low cost materials and conventional manufacturing methods, offering affordable, lightweight and reusable garments and components.

Following the successful demonstration of the prototype, more in-depth testing is required and we’re actively seeking partners and funding for the next stage of development. We’re confident that the versatility in design will make the technology applicable to other occupations that require personal cooling.

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