National Hockey League players will stay cool on the ice thanks to research at Central Michigan University.
Last spring, CMU researchers performed thermal testing of three prototype NHL uniforms -- one of which the league unveiled Monday as its new lighter, cooler uniform.
The research was crucial to help Reebok, the uniform's designer, determine which prototype best limited sweat and heat buildup for players during a game. Researchers used a body scanner and thermal camera to map heat patterns on a test subject wearing the different uniforms.
"It's great to work on a real-world project," said Maureen MacGillivray, professor of apparel merchandising and design. "It's great exposure to CMU and our ongoing research. This technology is so new that companies aren't really aware of it and how it can be utilized to improve apparel design."
MacGillivray was part of a team of CMU faculty who met with Reebok officials on campus in May. During a weekend testing session, the faculty put the subject -- a teenage hockey player -- through a variety of workouts wearing the three Reebok prototypes and the NHL's current uniform. They used the thermal camera to measure the teen's temperatures.
Other participating faculty members included: Tanya Domina, professor of apparel merchandising and design; Terry Lerch, a professor in the engineering and technology department; and Patrick Kinnicutt, a computer science professor.
Reebok officials say the new uniforms are more ergonomically fitted to a player's body, and that a new stretch mesh fabric will give players better range of motion. The new NHL uniform uses ventilated "Play Dry" fabric, which Domina said will keep players 4 to 10 degrees cooler than the previous material.
Next month, the faculty team plans to meet again with Reebok officials to test prototypes for new uniforms for the National Basketball Association -- likely using CMU's new environmental chamber. The $80,000 chamber -- housed at CMU's engineering and technology building -- can simulate temperatures between minus 20 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit and from 5 to 95 percent relative humidity.
Domina said the new chamber can better simulate actual playing conditions on the basketball court. In the future, CMU researchers plan to use it to simulate extreme temperatures during a house fire or other emergency to test new first-responder uniforms.
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