Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Smart cooling textile solution for firefigthers

Project

Firefighters are daily exposed to a variety of challenging working conditions. One of such conditions is exposure to heat stress. Heat stress is induced due to impermeable personal protective clothing, intensive physical activity and increased surrounding temperature. Such conditions do not occur only where the fire needs to be extinguished, in many cases they occur also at the tasks such as helping the injured at road accidents. Specifically, on such occasion a firefighter is for a prolonged time physically active while wearing protective clothing, where the thermal load can be additionally aggravated by high ambient temperatures.

Above mentioned conditions unavoidably lead to heat stress. Heat stress is perceived, among others, as feeling (intolerable) warm and exhausted which can lead to a decreased working performance of a firefighter. Thus, it is of great importance to relieve heat stress and thereby to improve the well-being of a firefigther.

It has been shown that heat stress in firefighters can be successfully relieved with the application of cooling garments. Cooling garments commonly provide heat stress relieve based on phase-change materials, liquid cooled textile system or ventilation system. Nevertheless, such cooling systems are often bulky, heavy and not user friendly.

The goal of the present project is thus to develop a new smart cooling textile solution to overcome the above mentioned shortcomings of the existing cooling systems and thereby to optimally improve the well being of firefigthers.  

Follow-up:

In the first six months of the project we have been focusing on defining a functional specifications of the new smart cooling textile solution for firefighters. To define these: i) scientific literature on thermoregulation in firefigthers was reviewed, ii) firefighters were approached to inform ourselves on their working demands and heat strain they encounter and iii) an international online survey was conducted. In the survey we investigated the current status on firefighters’ protective clothing, their working conditions and possible cooling strategies they use. Furthermore, using thermal-sweating manikin,  a cooling capacity of various commercially available cooling vests, was determined. Based on the information gathered, we determined where on the firefighters’ body cooling is most efficient, how cooling should be performed and how much a firefighter needs to be cooled in order to feel thermally comfortable. These information were used to compose a first concept, where this is currently undergoing improvements in sense of materials used. Cooling capacity of the first prototype will be in assessed February, and compared with that obtained for other commercially available cooling vests. Afterwards, it is expected that the prototype will be assessed using human participants.       

 

 

Financial support

Project is financed by Teijin Aramid, Arnhem, The Netherlands. Teijin Aramid is, amongst others, a supplier of heat protective fibers.  Furthermore, HvA is a part of consortium established by Teijin Aramid and formed by University of Applied Sciences Saxion and University of Twente.