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Development of a cost-effective moisture and thermal barrier layer for protective clothes based on an innovative combination of warp-knitted textiles and hydrogel polymer coatings, introducing new standards which will prevent low quality im

Final Report Summary - SAFE&COOL (Development of a (...) barrier layer for protective clothes based on an innovative combination of warp-knitted textiles and hydrogel polymer coatings (...))

Wearing state-of-the-art protective clothing for indoor work in non-ventilated areas, in hot temperatures or under radiating sources, while performing physically demanding work, is expected to hinder worker ability to remain cool. Workers' inability to shed excess heat results each year in many heat strokes in Europe. Less serious consequences of heat stress are more common, affecting several tens of thousands of workers per year all over Europe.

To address the issue and minimise accidents, the European Union (EU) launched directives 89/656/EEC and 89/686/EEC, which oblige employers to make available protective clothes to their employees. Since then the market of protective clothing has been boosted. Some 98% of the 20 000 European companies involved in the protective clothing value chain were small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which were suffering competition from India, China, Japan and Taiwan. As a result non-EU imports in those years had increased by 34 %, resulting in a reduction of employment in Europe by 14 %.

SAFE&COOL's objective was to develop a thermal and moisture management layer based on a 3qweft-knitted flameproof fabric coated with a hydrogel polymer, fully compliant with EU directives 89/656/EEC and 89/686/EEC and standards UNI EN 470-1.

The three-dimensional (3D) textile structure of the SAFE&COOL textile layer was intended at replacing the interlinear and moisture barrier in the classical three-layered protective clothing. The materials employed for its development were hydrophobic thermal comfort fibres (in contact with the body to avoid wet feeling) with hydrophilic fibres (creating suction channels to transport the moisture away from the skin) in appropriate combination. A cooling system consisting of liquid circulation through tubing inserted in the cavities available within the 3D structure reproduced blood vessels for heat removal.

The 3D spacer fabric also facilitated convective effects due to its singular structure comprising vertical and diagonal spacer yarns, thus enhancing the cooling effect to the whole body surface. Water-binding polymer was added as a coating, or in the form of a powder dispersed inside the fabric thickness, with the purpose of absorbing and binding the excess of moisture migrating through the semi-permeable membrane if the temperature was maintained below the threshold controlled through the cooling system.