USAF Working to Prevent Heat Illnesses

Dr. Reginald O'Hara and an exercise physiology research team at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine have developed a passive cooling technology that they're testing, according to a DoD report.

Research work conducted by Dr. Reginald O'Hara and an exercise physiology research team at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine has produced a passive cooling technology that they're testing in the field, according to a DoD report written by Kim Bowden of the 711th Human Performance Wing.

The report notes that excessive heat can reduce airmen's physical and cognitive performance, and that most systems for alleviating heat stress aren't realistic solutions for the battlefield. "For example, most devices are heavy and bulky, adding too much weight for troops to practically carry. What’s more, many require a power source or a means of 're-cooling,' which might not always be available, and they are often too noisy to safely use in the field," Bowden reported.

The report says O'Hara and the team are working under a three-year cooperative R&D agreement with Gawi Healthcare LLC and have developed a small, lightweight, passive cooling technology. "USAFSAM hopes to develop and commercialize a variety of hydrogel cooling technologies. O'Hara and his fellow researchers have started testing two variations of the technology to date. One is an Air Force-invented cooling sleeve or wrap for the water bladder that battlefield Airmen and other special ops forces carry, and one is cooling inserts for a specially designed undershirt," it says.

"The devices act through a form of conduction," O'Hara says in the report, "transferring heat from the water in the hydration pack bladder or the Airman to the hydrogel. The sleeve was tested during 60-minute marches in 90-degree F temperatures and 40-percent humidity, and it successfully demonstrated a 20-degree drop in drinking water temperature. Subjects drank up to 2 liters more cooled water when compared to non-cooled water."

The testing showed that subjects wearing an undershirt with cooling inserts experienced lower core body temperatures and significantly lower peak body temperatures after a 70-minute weighted vest treadmill walking test than subjects in undershirts without inserts.

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