Researchers at Iowa State University are working to develop a glove to better protect firefighters from extreme heat while also allowing their fingers to remain agile.
Professor Guowen Song, who runs ISU’s Labs for Functional Textiles and Protective Clothing, says many first responders use gloves made with a thick, bulky material that protects the hand but limits comfort and dexterity.
“Wearing the protective gear basically is to protect your body from injury but also we rely a lot on our hand to finish the task,” Song says.
Thanks to a $1.5-million dollar grant from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Song’s team on the Ames campus is working to improve the safety and function of heat-protection gloves.
“Hand is so specific and the ways of the thermal regulation is different,” Song says, “so we need a specific model to make sure that each finger is being fully protected and also the performance of comfort, the performance of dexterity can be realized.”
Studies find the gloves now being used by many firefighters cause them to lose more than 50-percent of their manual dexterity.
Song says, “This is the priority and the basic focus, how we’re going to develop the relations of the glove, material property design, and to make sure the dexterity is not lost too much.”
A better, safer glove is just the beginning. In the next stage, Song says ISU researchers want to apply what they learn to other types of protective first responders’ gear, including boots and helmets.