Watersports enthusiasts will soon be able to surf in colder waters and keep warm for longer, thanks to The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and UK wetsuit manufacturer, Spartan.
Spartan specialise in wetsuits for the wind sports market. It approached NPL, the UK's measurement institute, to understand the science behind how wetsuits keep people warm, to improve its product design. In particular it wanted to improve its windsurfing wetsuits, which keep windsurfers warm whilst standing on their board.
Spartan and NPL set out to perform detailed measurements of wetsuits' thermal function, using NPL's sophisticated measurement equipment. These measurements help understand how wetsuits work, and therefore allow informed decisions about the most appropriate materials and construction methods.
Following initial laboratory tests to measure the thermal resistance of different wetsuit samples, the team moved on to field tests in windsurfers' natural habitat the sea and beach. On a chilly March day in Clacton on the Essex coast, Spartan's Mark Minter and John Morgan were joined by pro-windsurfer Chris 'Muzza' Murray to test the wetsuits.
NPL's Dr Richard Dudley and Dr Rob Simpson monitored the windsurfers' body temperatures throughout the trial using wireless temperature sensors taped under the right armpits. A thermal camera was then used to measure each man's temperature, in a variety of wet and windy conditions to simulate the experience of windsurfers.
The tests revealed important insights into wetsuit manufacture. One of the most vital concerned the wetsuits' surface finish. Whilst the finish made no difference in the lab, in the field tests it had a significant effect caused by wind drawing moisture, and therefore heat, away from the surface via wind chill. Wind chill has been recognised for some time, but these measurements provide a detailed understanding of how it works and how wetsuit manufacturers can mitigate its
|Contact: David Lewis|
National Physical Laboratory