How to dress for extreme cold part 2 - IceIndigo Suits
In the first part I explained the main system that everyone in the world has been using when dressing for the cold as well as the major issue around which it is focused - sweat. I also briefly explained how "sweating" actually works, being a constant process where our body radiates heat. It is important to emphasise these two points before we proceed.
Anyone who has been in seriously cold temperatures will tell you that if you sweat in the cold, you're in trouble and that is completely true with the layering system. However, what if there was another system? A system which utilised the heat that your body constantly radiates and allowed you to re-use this energy to stay warm? What if there was a suit which actually functioned better the more you sweat? This is where the IceIndigo Artic Suit comes in.
The IceIndigo suit is patented and is completely unique in how it works. The suit is essentially a thermos, meaning that it retains the heat that is generated by your body. It does this so effectively that at first the explorers wearing the suits wouldn't have a heat signature.
As we sweat and radiate heat from our body, this energy is used to warm the blanket of air which exists between our body and the interior layer of the suit (this is what keeps us warm). The important part in this first step is to not lose that heat energy which is keeping us warm which is where the effectiveness of the "thermos" aspect of the suit is tested.
The next step consists of a gas exchange or what is known as the "breathability" component of a suit. Our bodies constantly give off gas which is exchanged. This doesn't just happen when we breathe and swap out carbon dioxide for oxygen. Our skin also has to 'breathe'. So if clothing is considered 'breathable' it means the gas exchange function is high. The interior layer of the suit pulls through the sweat and gasses we produce to the exterior layer, at a specified speed. This is extremely important because if this process happens too quickly, we lose all the energy which is contained within the suit. If we simply unzip the suit to let in some fresh air, all the thermal energy will release and our body will need time to radiate more. However, if this happens at the same speed as new heat is being radiated we manage to retain the warmth of this thermal air blanket.
As the sweat is being absorbed through the suit it warms the suit itself. This is where elasticity is key. Because different parts of our bodies sweat and radiate heat at different rates, different parts of our clothing warm up first. If the clothing isn't elastic, once we move that warm area moves to a colder part of our body and we spend more energy reheating the clothing (think if you're wearing a top and you reach up, the place where you armpit was has moved). The IceIndigo suits are made of material which is extremely elastic. This doesn't just mean that you don't waste energy on warming the suit but you can also move completely freely - something which the layering system massively lacks on.
The final aspect is what happens to this sweat when it reaches the exterior layers of the suit and is exposed to -60C air. If clothing is wet the moisture within will freeze and in -60C this happens within seconds. So we don't want to find ourselves in a situation where our suit is iced over on the exterior. The IceIndigo suit has more than 300 parts to it which all function individually and together. Once the moisture has reached the exterior layers, if it does freeze your suit may be covered by a small layer of frost but with any movement, this layer is removed. This ensures you don't end up with a layer of ice on your suit.
Read on in part 3 to see how the suit functioned when tested in real life...