Bulletproof jackets might hold back bullets, but cannot hold back heat and sweat. Policemen and soldiers who wear such gear, often compromise comfort for safety, bearing the brunt of soaring temperatures and high humidity. To ease their misery, scientists from the Swiss Research Institute Empa, have developed an air conditioned bulletproof jacket that will keep them cool under the heat of the sun.
The vest designed by Empa is based on the coolpad technology, which was initially used for cooling garments used in medicines. The bulletproof vest is fitted with a thin water filled coolpad and a mini fan. It features a built-in ventilation layer, which allows water to evaporate, while the fan distributes the cool air around the body of the wearer.
The fact that the vest is worn underneath the shirt posed various challenges. One of them was to use a fabric spacer, which was soft, flexible and yet could handle pressure well. For this, Empa partnered with a Swiss textile manufacturer and they devised stronger membranes for the jacket, using diode laser welding technology.
Another problem faced by the team was that they required small fans that would fit inside vests without making it voluminous. They had to tackle this problem internally and designed and fitted each jacket with two fans, with further each fan having its own battery and electronic pack. A single charge would run the batteries for three hours.
It is not the first time when we are hearing about air conditioned gear, but scientists from Empa claim that their version is lighter, self sustaining and more efficient than other cooling garments.