MICROSPHERE-BASED PASSIVE MATERIAL FOR LOW-TEMPERATURE DIVING SUITS
Brown, Jonathan M.
Kartalov, Emil P.
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Navy divers and dive-qualified personnel are often required to operate in cold water. The threat of hypothermia and other health concerns limits the time a diver is allowed in the water. The neoprene wetsuit is the primary material used for protection in low temperature conditions. Small pockets of air within the neoprene create a thermally insulating layer of air between the diver and the ocean. As the individual descends underwater, the increase of static pressure on the wetsuit causes the protective air pockets to shrink. This sharply lowers the overall thermal resistance of the wetsuit. By replacing the insulating air pockets with rigid glass microspheres, changes in depth had significantly less negative influence on the thermal resistivity and buoyancy of the fabricated material. Resulting experimental data related thermal resistivity to volumetric fraction of microspheres in the polymer. This effort ultimately proved the superior thermal properties of the fabricated composite over neoprene and expanded future possibilities for passive thermal protection in low-temperature waters.
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