At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic many healthcare providers – nurses, doctors, and others in contact with infected patients, wore PPE that included full body suits. Firefighters, first responders, and even the military wear these suits, depending on the type of situation they are responding to. These suits are designed to limit exposure to the virus and other harmful biological and chemical contaminants. Unfortunately, these suits work both ways – limiting the ability for the body to cool itself holding in heat and moisture.

Scientists at a Singapore university have developed a film that can be manufactured into medical PPE suits that wicks away sweat and other moisture from the skin, allowing it to be removed from the skin and air inside the suit. This allows for evaporative cooling, one of the primary way people transfer heat when working in hot environments. In a typical PPE suit, a person working in a 35°C (95°F) room has an effective suit heat index of 64°C (147°F). Results in the journal Small suggest the film can reduce the heat index inside the suit by 40%, which allows the user to work longer, more comfortably and accurately, and with less recovery time at the end of their shift.

The suit film material needs to be regenerated after a time because it collects and traps moisture rather than allowing it to pass through the suit to the outside (like Gore-tex © does). But this regeneration can be done at relatively low temperatures – 50°C (122°F) in less than an hour for 95% removal. The goal is to produce PPE that is more comfortable and able to be worn for longer periods of time, making them more able to do their very difficult jobs – Steve Terry, DTC HVAC & Refrigeration Instructor

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