Norwegian scientist and industrial companies will lead an eight-member European group in the development of a new generation of fishermen's work-wear with inbuilt life-saving electronics.
The scientists plan to incorporate a wireless "dead man's handle" that will stop a small one-man fishing vessel if its only crew member falls overboard. The same device will also include an alarm that will transmit the boat's position, allowing a rescue operation to be mounted more rapidly. The new work-wear may even be able to repair rips in its own fabric!
Safe@Sea -- four million Euro project
With the Norwegian SINTEF research group as coordinator and Norway's textile manufacturer Helly Hansen Pro asproject manager, the EU research project that aims to save professional fishermen from death by drowning is already under way.
The three-year, four million Euro project will provide the fishing industry with a new generation of work-wear that will improve the chances of survival of a fisherman who ends up in the sea. The project, known as Safe@Sea, started last year and will run until the end of 2012.
Clothing with inbuilt high technology
"We intend to make their everyday life safer and more comfortable for fishers by integratng high technology into the clothes that they wear to work. Put simply, to give them what is known in the trade as intelligent clothing," says physiologist Hilde Færevik, the SINTEF scientist who is coordinating the project.
Starting point: needs
"We will map the needs and wishes expressed by European fishermen regarding the work-wear, and physiological and ergonomic tests in the laboratory and the field will help to ensure that the new clothing will have the functionality and comfort that will meet these demands," says Færevik. The SINTEF physiologist leads an interdisciplinary team made up of two industrial designers, an engineer specialising in biophysics and a materials scientist.
The 14 research institutes and industrial companies involved in the project come from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Italy and the UK.
Shrugs off dirt
In the fishing industry, good old-fashioned oilskins have long been the norm in work-wear. The contrast with the technological content that is being sketched out for the new clothing is enormous.
As well as incorporating potentially life-saving electronics, the scientists hope to develop a method of surface treatment that will make it simpler to wash off blood and fish-guts from the clothing.
Soft and breathable
"At the same time, the textiles need to be soft and able to "breathe," but if the high-technology aspects affect such properties, we will have to lower our technological ambitions, because if the new clothing is not comfortable in wear, it won't be used," says Færevik.
Built-in "dead man's handle" and position indicator
Wireless "man overboard" systems capable of stopping small one-man fishing vessels if the fisherman falls overboard, and which also trigger an alarm and indicate the vessel's position, are already being manufactured by the Norwegian company Sisyfos. The current version of this equipment needs to be attached to the clothing. One of the goals of the project is to develop a version that can be incorporated in the clothing itself, so that the fisherman will constantly have it on when working on the ocean
A further development is to demonstrate the improved safety by incorporating both conventional locator systems such as radio- and GPS-signals and more up to date possibilities through e.g. AIS-Sart in the personal locator beacons.
Inbuilt buoyancy for safety
"We also want the clothing to incorporate flotation systems, either in the form of solid flotation elements or of "lungs" that will automatically be inflated if the user ends up in the sea," says Færevik.
The SINTEF scientist add that the members of the project have won acceptance for the inclusion of visions that are right at the leading edge of what could be implemented in practice today, in they will also look at whether they can develop work-wear made of advanced textiles that "glue up" rips themselves, in order to ensure that the clothing always stays watertight.
"If we don't manage to develop such textiles in the course of this three-year project, we can at least hope to create a basis for other materials that will be of value in the future."
Results aimed at the market
Hilde Færevik adds that it is in the nature of research to pursue ideas that cannot find practical implementation, or that are too expensive to develop.
At the same time, the end producer in the project Helly Hansen will ensure that production-ready solutions are put on the market. In other words, the project will not just end up with a laboratory prototype.
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