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Engineers design “wearable air conditioning” for soldiers

What's New? | June 8, 2020 | By:

Photo: College of Engineering, University of Missouri.

One day, soldiers could cool down by using “wearable air conditioning,” an on-skin device that can achieve around 11°F of cooling to the human body. Designed by engineers at the University of Missourithe device can also monitor blood pressure, electrical activity of the heart and the level of skin hydration. 

This breathable and waterproof device delivers personal air conditioning to the body through a process called passive cooling, which does not utilize electricity, such as a fan or pump, to mitigate discomfort to the user.

“Our device can reflect sunlight away from the human body to minimize heat absorption, while simultaneously allowing the body to dissipate body heat,” said corresponding author Zheng Yan, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering. “We believe this is one of the first demonstrations of this capability in the emerging field of on-skin electronics.”

Currently, the device is a small, wired patch; researchers say it will take one to two years to design a wireless version. They also hope to one day take their technology and apply it to smart clothing to allow for the device’s cooling capabilities to be delivered across the whole body. Right now, the cooling is only concentrated in a specific area where the patch is located.

The study, “Multiscale porous elastomer substrates for multifunctional on-skin electronics with passive-cooling capabilities,” was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Funding was provided by the University of Missouri start-up fund and a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. 

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