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Innovative offshore safety system to protect the body from cold shock in extreme conditions

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Advanced textiles prevent shock in cold water emergency situations

An innovative use of unique chemical gel provides a burst of life-saving heat on contact with cold water, potentially saving lives in an emergency.

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Drowning, and immersion in cold water, are both major causes of death. Most accidents happen to those working on offshore platforms or flying over water. Helicopter crashes, for example, can be fatal even for those who survive the initial impact. The numbing cold water can lead to cardiac arrest, and sharp, heavy debris can cause further injury to floating survivors. While there are many buoyancy devices on the market today, none have specific thermal properties, designed to withstand the potentially fatal shock coming from cold water immersion. “Every day, people end up in situations they don’t want to be in, but they need to survive,” says Simon Lamont, CEO of Iron Ocean and Centurion 3 project coordinator. The Centurion 3 project has developed an advanced, triple-layer garment to protect against cold shock while providing buoyancy and other protection. The clothing has at its core a self-heating gel which creates heat when in contact with water, protecting the wearer from shocks right from the first moment of entry. “If you are able to remain warm for the length of time it takes to send out a rescue party, more searches would be for survivors and not for bodies,” adds Lamont.

Advanced materials

The Centurion 3 is a skin-fitting garment which fits comfortably under other clothing. The first layer retains and distributes heat around the body. It is made from Iron Ocean’s bespoke fabric CARFIBEX, a combination of carbon fibre, cashmere and biodegradable acrylic. Independent ISO testing showed CARFIBEX as having faster drying times, better moisture control and improved heat distribution compared with other standard clothing materials such as textile and wool. The second layer is infused with Iron Ocean’s REACTA GEL AQUA – a patented gel which reacts with water to generate heat without the need for any external power source. The gel produces heat for over an hour. The unique chemical composition is a rechargeable compound. The third, outermost layer functions like an armour for the other two. It is resistant to radiation and burns, as well as physical damage which can be common in rescue or other emergency situations. “The third layer is critical in protecting against the most common barriers to escape. Specifically blood loss and burns, which are a major contributor to the rapid onset of shock in any situation,” explains Lamont.

Next steps

EU funding let the team carry out extensive administrative research. In this phase 1 feasibility study, Iron Ocean, a Dundee-based firm, established supply chains and a strategy with which to take products to market. The innovative clothing has received significant interest from international military and law enforcement communities. The Centurion 3 project is now seeking additional funding to branch out into more specifically tailored technical products. Following the unexpected coronavirus pandemic, plans have been put on hold temporarily. Yet the Iron Ocean team have turned their attention and resources toward creating hand sanitiser, a significant weapon in the battle against COVID-19. The business has engineered a gel that kills a far broader range of bacterial and viral contaminants than conventional hand sanitisers.


Centurion 3, garment, cold, shock, survive, water, emergency, COVID-19

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