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22nd November 2016, Nottingham

Electric balaclava to avert chest infections in cold weather

A team of researchers at the Nottingham Trent University have developed a smart balaclava which warms oxygen before it’s inhaled to reduce the risk of athletes contracting chest infections when exercising in the cold.

Nottingham Trent University and German advanced knitting machine manufacturer Stoll created a prototype to help runners and skiers who can be exposed to increased risk of infections. As part of the collaboration, Carlos Oliveira, of the university’s Advanced Textiles Research Group, spent two weeks with Stoll in Germany working on the project. The balaclava is one of a number of sports garments which Stoll has created on its CMS ADF 32 BW flat knitting machine to illustrate the potential of its technology.

The balaclava was created on the Stoll CMS ADF 32 BW flat knitting machine. © Stoll

The mask is fully washable and behaves like any other fabric. It features 3D-knitted pre-shape qualities for a more comfortable fit. Reflective stripes are included for passive visibility. “The balaclava has won the Outdoor Industry Award in Gold 2016. This is the proof that the communication across disciplines, industry and research, enhances the degree of innovation,” commented Joerg Hartmann, Head of Fashion & Technology at Stoll.

Technology

The technology centres on a knitted patch of electric-conductive yarn over the nose and mouth, which emits heat when charged with an electric current. It is connected to a knitted power socket at the back of the balaclava, which contains a plus and minus pole to connect a rechargeable cell battery. Electricity cannot be felt by the wearer as the current is so low, researchers explain. But when the battery is inserted, the power comes on and the area around the nose and mouth warms up.

The mask features 3D-knitted pre-shape qualities for a more comfortable fit. © Stoll

“This balaclava is the tip of the iceberg of what can be achieved through collaborative research into smart textiles,” commented Professor Tilak Dias, leader of the Advanced Textiles Research Group at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Art & Design. “By using electric-conductive yarns which are so tiny that they cannot be felt by human skin, we’re able to provide a consistent level of warmth to a piece of clothing so that a runner only breathes in warm air.”

When the battery is inserted, the power comes on and the area around the nose and mouth warms up. © Stoll

“It’s good example of how smart textiles can be used to improve people’s lives. With the application of heated textiles, we can help reduce the risk of athletes contracting illnesses related to cold weather.”

www.ntu.ac.uk

Watch Stoll marketing video which features the smart balaclava

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