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Gloves for frostbite

As the body attempts to conserve energy it shuts off heat to hands, fingers and toes, says a study.

health and fitness Updated: Dec 29, 2003 22:10 IST

The chilling atmosphere can have a harmful effect on individuals. As snow, sleet, freezing rain and frigid Arctic air grips much of the nation, many people will spend dangerous amounts of time outside, shoveling snow scraping ice or sledding.

According to Science Daily, as the body attempts to conserve energy it shuts off heat to the hands, fingers and toes, dropping the temperature to these extremities by 40 degrees F, thus making them vulnerable to frostbite.

A researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia and W.L. Gore and Associates are developing a new glove containing flexible heat pipes that will solve this dangerous problem.

"This new glove will be lighter, thinner, warmer and more comfortable than anything in the market today," said Hongbin Ma, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, who started on the project a year ago and recently completed a prototype of the glove.

Each glove, made of polyester, contains five small heat pipes, that are about 14 inches long and 1 mm x 2 mm in the cross section. Each pipe consists of three sections: an evaporating section, which is attached to the upper arm area; an adiabatic section, which is between the finger area and the arm area; and the condensing section, which is attached to the finger area.

According to Ma, the heat is transferred to fluid in the glove through direct contact between the heat pipes and the individual's arm. The fluid, in turn, is vaporized and the vapors bring heat to the fingers. The vapor is then condensed back into the fluid, which flows back to the arm section through a wick structure embedded in the heat pipe. In this way, Ma says, the heat will continuously be transported from the arm to the finger.

"The heat transport is dependent on the temperature difference," Ma said. "When the temperature difference between the arm and fingers is higher, like it is during the winter, the heat transport capability will increase. When the temperature difference is low, such as when someone comes in from outside, the glove will automatically adjust the heat transfer capability."

First Published: Dec 29, 2003 22:10 IST