2012

High-Thermal-Conductivity Fabrics

Applications include cooling garments for firefighters, hazmat personnel, soldiers, and in cooling vests for multiple sclerosis patients.

Heat management with common textiles such as nylon and spandex is hindered by the poor thermal conductivity from the skin surface to cooling surfaces. This innovation showed marked improvement in thermal conductivity of the individual fibers and tubing, as well as components assembled from them.

The problem is centered on improving the heat removal of the liquidcooled ventilation garments (LCVGs) used by astronauts. The current design uses an extensive network of water-cooling tubes that introduces bulkiness and discomfort, and increases fatigue. Range of motion and ease of movement are affected as well. The current technology is the same as developed during the Apollo program of the 1960s. Tubing material is hand-threaded through a spandex/nylon mesh layer, in a series of loops throughout the torso and limbs such that there is close, form-fitting contact with the user. Usually, there is a nylon liner layer to improve comfort. Circulating water is chilled by an external heat exchanger (sublimator).

The purpose of this innovation is to produce new LCVG components with improved thermal conductivity. This was addressed using nanocomposite engineering incorporating high-thermalconductivity nanoscale fillers in the fabric and tubing components. Specifically, carbon nanotubes were added using normal processing methods such as thermoplastic melt mixing (compounding twin screw extruder) and downstream processing (fiber spinning, tubing extrusion). Fibers were produced as yarns and woven into fabric cloths. The application of isotropic nanofillers can be modeled using a modified Nielsen Model for conductive fillers in a matrix based on Einstein’s viscosity model.

This is a drop-in technology with no additional equipment needed. The loading is limited by the ability to maintain adequate dispersion. Undispersed materials will plug filtering screens in processing equipment. Generally, the viscosity increases were acceptable, and allowed the filled polymers to still be processed.

The novel feature is that fabrics do not inherently possess good thermal conductivity. In fact, fabrics are used for thermal insulation, not heat removal. The technology represents the first material that is a wearable fabric, based on company textiles and materials that will significantly conduct heat.

This work was done by L. P. Felipe Chibante of NanoTex Corporation for Johnson Space Center.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

   NanoTex Corporation
   9402 Alberene Dr.
   Houston, TX 77074

MSC-24389-1

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

High-Thermal-Conductivity Fabrics (reference MSC-24389-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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