- Award in ‘University – Energy, Environment, and Applied Sciences’
- Category Reflects Students’ Technical Skills and Ability to Demonstrate Original Ideas and Inventions
A team of five Khalifa University students have won the ‘First Place – Abu Dhabi’ award for their project “The Design of a Cooling Suit” in the ‘University – Energy, Environment, and Applied Sciences’ category at the Think Science 2019 competition.
The top award was won by undergraduate Mechanical Engineering students Shaima Al Hashemi, Nema Nadhem Asaad Asaad Taher, Latifah Omar Mohamed Abdulla Alseiari, Aryam Ahmed Saleh Rashed Almaamari, and Alyaziya Sulayem Saleh Saad Alsheebani. Assistant Professor Dr. Samuel Cubero, Department of Mechanical Engineering, was their faculty adviser.
The main goal of this project is to design and build a ‘tether-less’ motor-powered cooling suit that an average adult user can wear. Similar in appearance to a biohazard protection suit or astronaut’s space suit, this cooling suit keeps the internal temperature of the user at an adjustable level between 15 and 30 degrees C. The operating time, between recharges, can be at least three hours of constant usage. It will have an ‘SOS’ button and automatic signals in case of emergencies, as well as a smart system to check body temperature.
The project proposed by the students helps the user remain comfortable and avoid sweating, even during extremely hot outdoor temperatures. Most outdoor workers can continue working and remain productive when wearing the suit since the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are minimized. Moreover, the suit helps workers at construction or building sites to remain comfortable, enabling greater productivity and requiring shorter rest hours.
Al Maamari identified the reasons for the team to win the challenge against more than 20 other projects. She said: “We didn't have to face that many challenges, except the normal stress and nervousness. But we stood together, guarded each other’s back, and we were confident about the details of our design, in addition to the booth organization.”
She added: “Also, our design process works with 100% safety for the worker, since safety is our main objective and incorporating that is one of the hardest parts.”
After considering several different designs, some of which involved refrigeration units or air-conditioning systems, the students concluded that the lowest-cost, most lightweight, and most effective solution for this project would be to use special PCMs (Phase Change Materials) that can absorb the Sun's energy and prevent any significant rise in body temperature. The PCM is located in several pockets around the suit, and it basically absorbs external or ambient heat energy from the environment, which converts it from a solid to liquid, without raising the skin temperature.
However, once the PCM has turned into pure liquid, it is no longer able to prevent the user’s skin temperature from increasing. Therefore, to ‘recharge’ it, or make it an effective heat absorber again, each PCM bag needs to be placed in a refrigerator (or freezer) so it can turn solid again for future reuse.
Dr. Cubero said: “It is nice to hear about our students being recognized for their technical skills and their ability to demonstrate new and original ideas and inventions that could make a positive impact in the community.”
“From the very beginning, all students working on this project showed great enthusiasm and interest. They believe that a cooling suit like this will make life much more comfortable for outdoor workers, who currently suffer intense summer temperatures with a debilitating effect on their ability to work efficiently and productively,” he added.
In addition, the students have also designed and implemented effective insulation materials for the suit to enhance the performance of the PCM material. For example, electronic sensors are added to the suit with an onboard programmable microcontroller and an LCD display panel that can monitor important operating variables, such as temperatures at different areas on the suit and expected operating time or the remaining cooling time for the PCMs.
The suit also offers options to add more sensors, including a pulse-rate sensor, blood pressure sensor, or a breathing rate sensor. Data from these sensors can even be transmitted via a wireless network to a remote laptop, for monitoring the status of the user. Such advance features may raise the commercialization potential of this innovation.
English Editor Specialist
6 May 2019