A new material combo to keep soldiers warm at high altitudes

Soldiers sometimes have to be at high altitude with sub-zero temperatures for prolonged periods of time. To keep warm, they use a variety of strategies. This could include warm clothing, using heat packs, or electric blankets. But, they do not provide comprehensive solutions.
While warm clothes do prevent loss of body heat, they fail to generate any heat on their own, hot water bottles fail to retain the heat for long durations and electric heating pads or blankets require electric supply which has a risk of causing skin burn and thus making them unfit for prolonged use.
Now, scientists at the Defence Laboratory Jodhpur (DLJ), and the Indian Institute of Technology-Jodhpur (IITJ) have designed a new combination of previously known materials that could help save soldiers and those living in cold regions from adverse events such as frostbite and hypothermia.
The scientists have made this new combo-material using sodium acetate trihydrate and ethylene glycol that can retain significant amount of heat for long. The combo-material is a type of "phase change material", that have been previously used for making thermal management devices for regulating human body temperature, reducing temperature fluctuations inside buildings, and for storing solar energy.
Sodium acetate trihydrate is known to make efficient heat packs. But, it has several disadvantages. For example, it is hard and lumped, with sharp edges that makes it prone to puncture or damage during use. Also, it provides heat at nearly 57 degree Celsius as opposed to a temperature of 40 degree Celsius, which is required to manage frostbites.
The scientists at DLJ and IITJ have now found that it can be made more flexible and its heat retention time could be increased by about 10% by adding ethylene glycol and thus made suitable for thermal therapeutic applications such as for frostbites.
The scientists, Ambesh Dixit, Rohitash Kumar, SumitaVyas, and Ravindra Kumar have published their results in a recent issue of science journal Nature’s Scientific Reports.
“Novel ethylene glycol and aqueous sodium acetate trihydrate composite phase change materials with enhanced thermo-physical properties have been designed and developed. It is a promising material for applications such as body warming, building heating under adverse conditions and seasonal solar thermal energy storage,” they said in their report.
Mohammed Farid, professor at the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Auckland, New Zealand, who is not connected to the study but works with similar materials agrees that, “scientists have improved the performance of the materialthrough modifications. It will also make it more comfortable to use,” he says.
(India Science Wire)


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