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Don't forget your heat-pipe mittens.

Don't forget your heat-pipe mittens

Some defense dollars spent on research have a better chance of civilian spinoffs than others. A case in point: Lightweight gloves that keep fingers toasty even at frigid polar temperatures without being so bulky that they render hands mere appendages. Today well-insulated gloves are the predominant and imperfect means of hand protection in cold environments. Electrically heated gloves are a good idea. But sufficiently powerful yet small and long-lasting batteries are not available, and the resistance wires that actually do the warming tend to break, notes mechanical engineer Amir Faghri at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

As a solution, he and his co-workers suggest making gloves with built-in heat pipes that shunt heat from the relatively warmer elbow region to the colder fingertips. "Asd far as we know this would be the first application of heat pipes to heat transfer problems in humans," the researchers claim in the June MECHANICAL ENGINEERING.

A heat pipe consists of a sealed container holding a liquid such as Freon R12, which evaporates and condenses within the range of temperature for the intended application. Heat applied at one end vaporizes the liquid. Due to its higher pressure, the heat-laden vapor travels to the cooler end of the pipe where it then condenses into liquid while dumping its heat load to the surrounding material. The liquid returns to the evaporation section of the heat pipe along a wick by means of capillary action.

The researchers say the most likely initial designs will retrofit elbow-length insulated gloves already used by the Army with five flexible heat pipes. Starting out packed side-by-side at the inside elbow, the pipes would wrap around to the forearm and travel down to the wrist, where individual pipes then would follow each finger down to the tips. Farghi envisions the low-tech supergloves also cooling active robotic limbs and heating divers' hands underwater.
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Title Annotation:Technology
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 22, 1989
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