The Navy is leading research to develop new thermal underwear for divers to prevent hypothermia and loss of muscle strength when working in water temperatures that can dip below 30 degrees-Fahrenheit in the ocean.
Navy dive officials want the electrically-heated undergarments to protect divers without causing hot spots that could potentially burn the sailors.
Whether it be neutralizing mines or performing maintenance on ships at sea, Navy divers can spend an excessive amount of time under frigid waters and can't afford to lose muscle control. The Office of Naval Research is working with the University of Montana's Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism (WPEM), and defense contractors SAIC and the Coliant Corporation on the project.
"We are very excited about the initial results of our investigation," said NSWC PCD Project Engineer John Klose. "Coliant's CNC fibers have the right combination of physical, thermal, and electrical properties that allow us to build an electrically-heated undergarment that would not be possible using traditional technologies.
The Navy is testing the suits in tanks filled with 40-degree water. Divers wearing the suits are coming out of the water without any drop in skin or core temperature. Without suits, a human would not be able to survive more than 20 minutes in the water that cold.