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NCSU Researchers Embark On Firefighter Glove Redesign Project

Researchers at Raleigh, N.C.-based North Carolina State University's (NCSU's) Textile Protection and Comfort Center (T-PACC) have received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to redesign traditional firefighter gloves to have reduced bulk and offer improved dexterity.

"Firefighters frequently say that bulky gloves impede their ability to pick up things and turn knobs, which can be critical in emergency situations," said Dr. Roger Barker, professor of textile engineering, chemistry and science; and T-PACC director. "There have been improvements in fabrics over the years. What we need now are advances in the functional design of the glove itself to go along with the advances in glove materials."

Based on feedback from firefighter interviews, researchers will conduct tests evaluating thermal protection, grip, breathability and insulation, among other characteristics on a range of textile materials, and create new designs for the gloves. Resulting prototypes will then be tested on T-PACC's PyroHands Fire Test System -- a flame-resistant composite-based hand manikin featuring 21 sensors that record heat exposure data to predict burns. PyroHands, whose engineering was funded by a grant from the US Department of Defense, is an addition to PyroMan, a life-sized manikin that has 122 heat sensors used to predict the performance of thermal protective clothing.

"By using PyroHands to test glove prototypes, we will be able to measure the distribution of fire protective insulation over the surface of the hands," Barker said. "This should help us develop improved glove designs by showing the locations on the glove where thickness and bulk might be reduced without compromising thermal protective performance."

October 6, 2009