Nottingham University scientists have developed a new cold pack – BeCool – for those wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
With the pandemic still raging on, PPE has become a mainstay in healthcare settings and for patients on ventilators, as well as for the public wearing face masks.
Nevertheless, PPE can cause severe heat stress for those having to wear it for extended periods.
Similarly, COVID-19 patients often display a high temperature – a situation that can be worsened if required to be put onto a ventilator in poorly ventilated or poorly air-conditioned hospital wards.
Conventional cold packs do offer some relief but they are ill-suited for Covid-19 situations because of their design complexity, lack of versatility, high unit cost, poor manufacturability, and recyclability.
Now a Nottingham team led by professor Saffa Riffat is spearheading research into a self-contained and long-lasting ‘cold pack’ that can be used with PPE.
“We have two types of BeCool,” he tells The Engineer. “A self-cooling one and another one you can place in a refrigerator.”
“However, both are reusable. We can design the BeCool to last two hours or more, but the pack can easily be replaced with another one.”
According to Riffat, a BeCool Pack uses a multi-cell bio-polymer structure containing an endothermic composite chemical agent such as urea/ammonium chloride that is separated from water cells.
The fast and controllable cooling effect is achieved through rupturing the seal between the cells.
By activating some cells to provide cooling and later activating more cells to provide further cooling, the generated cooling and temperature can be controlled depending on the end-user’s demand.
Riffat says that the packs can be manufactured in long chains akin to bubble wrap and easily cut into sections, bringing down costs compared to conventional cold packs.
Moreover, heat-sealing can be used to form two watertight envelopes for loading predetermined amounts of endothermic material and water.
The packs can then be made to insert into clothing such as aprons and masks – or made into blankets to lower body temperature and provide cooling for COVID-19 patients during transportation.
Image and content: The Engineer