Sony’s wearable air conditioner may make you 23 degrees cooler, but scientists working for the U.S. Army invented a device in 2005 that can handle more heat and longer.
The consumer electronics corporation recently revealed the Reon Pocket – a small body cooling device that rides in a pouch sewn into an undershirt.
But back in the early-1990s, scientists including Rizalah ‘Roger’ Masadi, Stephen Szczesuil, and Matt Correa, working at the U.S. Army CCDC Soldier Center in Massachusetts, formerly known as Natick Labs, were making entire vests into portable air conditioning units using pressurized heat transfer systems.
According to the Army, an active person’s daily cooling requirement varies between a high of 1200 watt-hours and a low of 600 watt-hours. Fan-based systems that provide cooling rates under 200 watts per day provide limited heat stress relief.
Embedded inside the Army vests, known as the Lightweight Environmental Control System, is over 100 feet of tubing containing 65-degree liquid that can remove up to 180 watts of metabolic heat per hour.
The research, possible in part because of the Army’s Doriot Climatic Chambers, led to a number of prototypes and earned them at least five patents, including U.S Patent 6,979,382 issued in 2005.
But the Army’s work on microclimate garments is ongoing.
In 2014, researchers at the Natick Soldier Systems Center were testing the cooling vest for use by helicopter pilots and crew.
TechLink, the Department of Defense’s technology transfer experts, help companies large and small review Army technology and prepare a patent license application, the first step in commercializing government-owned inventions.
Dan Swanson, a senior technology manager at TechLink, has been guiding businesses through licensing Army technologies at no charge for nearly two decades.
“Human testing in the climate chamber showed that the Army’s technology can lower body core temperatures and the user’s heart rates,” Swanson said.