Surviving the heat of battle

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth are testing new high-tech thermal vests to be used by soldiers in Iraq to help them cope with the heat of battle.



The vests use a combination of air, liquid and new applications of old technologies such as converting paraffin wax into liquid in chambers within the vests to absorb heat from the body.



The thermal vests – manufactured by an undisclosed United States-based military contractor – are expected to be used within two years by men and women on the frontline of the Iraq war.



Currently, soldiers in Iraq do not wear thermal cooling vests. But temperatures in Iraq can reach as high as 50C and troops wearing heavy and dense biological and chemical protection suits are prone to heat-illness. The condition can seriously impair decision-making and judgement. In extreme cases, heat-illness can result in death.



University of Portsmouth thermal physiology scientist Mark Newton said the thermal vests would allow soldiers to perform their tasks better for longer periods of time.


‘Heat-illness can be very severe and can kill people,’ said Newton. ‘We know that decision-making is also affected and impaired as your core temperature is elevated. This kind of technology and its application is really about how best to utilise and maintain your manpower, so people can perform better and over a longer period of time than what might otherwise be the case given certain extremes of climate.’