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Space suit technology is safe & cool

3 March 2006
One of the reasons astronauts wear space suits is for protection from extreme temperatures. The outside of a space suit can register a sizzling 120 degrees Celsius – hotter than boiling water - during a daytime spacewalk. Now the technologies used to protect spacewalkers are being adapted for more down-to-earth uses.

People such as firefighters and steel workers require special clothing to protect them from scorching heat at work. However, the thick clothing that keeps them safe may also cause them to overheat if they are performing physically demanding work.
Cooling tubes in textile
Cooling tubes weaved into the textile
This problem should soon be overcome, thanks to the new Safe&Cool project which is being undertaken by companies from Italy, Belgium and Poland.

Begun within ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme, Safe&Cool makes use of three space suit technologies. The first is a special 3D-textile structure which includes thermal comfort fibres that prevent a wet feeling when in contact with the body, and other fibres that create suction channels to transport moisture away from the skin.

Also included is a system that removes heat by circulating liquid through tubes inside the 3D-textile. Finally, a water-binding polymer is added to the fabric to absorb excess moisture. If there is a sudden temperature increase that cannot be counteracted by the cooling system, the polymer releases the liquid it holds – rather like sweat cools the skin.

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