The new suit has been jointly developed by SINTEF, which is a Norwegian research institute, and Helly Hansen, a Norwegian producer of textiles and special gear for sports and work on the ocean and in the mountains.
Thanks to a cooperative project between these two partners offshore platform personnel on the Norwegian continental shelf have been issued with – literally – smart helicopter survival suits.
These offshore workers are among the first people in the world who can go to work in clothes with built-in intelligence.Awarded
Now this group of workers is in the process of putting on a new generation of colourful suits. Thanks to their special qualities, the garments can be used both during helicopter transport and as survival suits out on the platform.Not satisfied with what was available
In 2000, OLF appointed a working group to define the properties that helicopter suits should have in the future to be approved for use during transport to and from Norwegian offshore oil-fields.
This initiative was enthusiastically received by the trade unions involved. The working group documented that users were dissatisfied with several aspects of the suits then in use.“Boiled alive”'
The working group gained acceptance of their viewpoint that the helicopter suits must solve both of these problems in order to be approved.
Norwegian scientists and industry people have now demonstrated that what seemed to be conflicting requirements for cooling and heat insulation can be met.Several innovations
Among other points, these innovations covered protection against spray on the face, sizes for large and small individuals, a breathing lung, emergency beacon and the ability to turn the wearer the right way up in the sea.“SmartWear”
“Smart use of functional textiles can give clothes completely new properties. In our work on the helicopter suit, we have made use of our knowledge of how heat and cold affect the human body, and how smart textiles can work in the same direction as the body's own reactions to cooling and heating”, explains research director Randi Eidsmo Reinertsen of SINTEF Health Research who is also a professor of physiology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.Paraffin wax spheres
If the skin temperature of the wearer of the clothing rises above 28 degrees Celsius, the wax changes phase from solid to liquid.
“Melting requires heat, which the wax takes from the body, cooling the wearer in the helicopter cabin on warm days”, explain product designers Kristine Holbø and Jarl Reitan of SINTEF Health Research.Perspire less
An analogy from everyday life is a glass of water with ice-cubes. Until all the ice has melted, the water in the glass remains at the melting temperature of ice, i.e. zero degrees Celsius. Only when all the ice has thawed will the temperature of the water begin to rise.
The laboratory studies also showed that the subjects felt much more comfortable in the new suits than the old ones.Protection against heat loss
“We believe that this is both because the paraffin wax releases the stored heat as it returns to the solid state, and because the suit contains extra insulation at the places where the body releases most heat,” she explains.Important for survival
This ensures, for example, that helicopter passengers retain their ability to grasp things during long involuntary stays in the sea.
Warm hands and feet also ensure that heat is evenly distributed to all parts of the body, which is important for survival and for the ability to make a contribution to one's own rescue.Norwegian winner
In tough competition with recently developed clothing from foreign manufacturers, the Norwegian suit was victorious in a call for tenders from StatoilHydro, the first oil company to swap its old helicopter suits for the new variety.
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