Army Develops Cloth That Could Drastically Improve Cold-Weather Uniforms


A revolutionary new cloth that uses nanotechnology to generate heat could end the days when soldiers deployed to Arctic environs are forced to walk around looking like 2-ton Stay Puft marshmallow men.

Created at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Mass., the material uses a coating of silver nanowires to reflect heat back to the wearer. The nanowires can generate temperatures up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit when an electric current is induced through them.

“Obviously the soldiers would not need that kind of heat, but that is just to show you the potential of how much we can heat up the fabric with just 3 volts, which is basically like a watch battery,” said Paola D’Angelo, a researcher at the center.

The Army hopes the new material will reduce both the weight and number of layers soldiers need to protect themselves from winter conditions. The Army’s current Extended Cold Weather Clothing System has seven levels with 12 pieces of clothing — not including numerous accessories such as gloves, scarves and the aptly named “bunny boots.”

Generation III Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (GEN III ECWCS)U.S. Army photo

Made largely of Gore-Tex, polypropylene and different types of fleece, the current cold-weather system is meant to protect users at temperatures ranging from minus 60 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although it is a vast improvement over previous versions of cold-weather gear used in the 1990s and earlier, the third-generation ECWCS now in use is still bulky, D’Angelo said.

“Seven layers is quite a lot for (soldiers) to wear. It increases their weight,” she said. “So we’re trying to minimize the weight load for them by coming up with a coating that is gonna go in the base layer.”

The advances in cold-weather gear come as the Army shifts attention back to frigid environments in northern Europe even as it continues missions in the swelter of Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Europe, the Army has spent millions painting its tanks and other combat vehicles forest green as part of a broader tactical reorientation to its old Cold War stomping grounds. The Marine Corps has also picked up the pace of its operations, establishing a year-round mission in Norway’s high north.

In September, Russia will launch its Zapad maneuvers, a massive war game where NATO experts expect as many as 100,000 troops to participate. During this time, the Army will conduct Rapid Trident, an exercise in western Ukraine involving 10 U.S. allied countries. While this happens, aggressive rhetoric continues to flow out of North Korea over nuclear weapons.

Before scientists use the as-of-yet unnamed material in the base layer of new cold weather uniforms, they hope to create gloves from the material and evaluate the outcome.

D’Angelo and fellow researcher Elizabeth Hirst are experimenting with another type of coating for the cloth, a hydrogel that will wick away a soldier’s perspiration and store it. The gels in powder form can absorb 40 times their dry weight in water.

One major challenge is developing a way to power the new base layer. Because field batteries tend to be heavy, Army researchers are trying to develop thin, lightweight batteries that are stretchable and flexible.

To limit the additional water weight that a soldier would produce while wearing what amounts to a high-tech sponge, Hirst envisions a system by which the base layer would be changed out when its hydrogel coating becomes too heavy with absorbed water.

Pfc. John Kreycik, a combat engineer with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, said that the new material and gloves seem like a good idea, but he wondered about the specifics.

“It would give me the ability to perform my job more safely and quickly in harsh weather conditions,” he said.

“Working with countermobility obstacles like concertina wire, gloves tend to get destroyed. So they would need to be durable. I’m concerned about dependability and safety. What do they weigh? How long does a charge last? Is there a possibility of injury if it malfunctions?”


©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

U.S. Army photo

After more than a decade of research and development and upwards of $500 million in funding, the Navy finally plans on testing its much-hyped electromagnetic railgun on a surface warship in a major milestone for the beleaguered weapons system, Navy documents reveal.

The Navy's latest Northwest Training and Testing draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment (NWTT EIS/OEIS), first detailed by the Seattle Times on Friday, reveals that " the kinetic energy weapon (commonly referred to as the rail gun) will be tested aboard surface vessels, firing explosive and non-explosive projectiles at air- or sea-based targets."

Read More Show Less
(Spectrum Bay News 9 image)

Just in time for many high school graduations, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into law a measure ensuring that seniors in the military may wear their dress uniforms instead of a cap and gown at their ceremonies.

DeSantis, a former Navy officer, approved SB 292 to become law upon his signature, which came Thursday.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Sgt. Amber Smith)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Congress fell short ahead of Memorial Day weekend, failing to pass legislation that would provide tax relief for the families of military personnel killed during their service.

Senators unanimously approved a version of the bipartisan Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act Tuesday sending it back to the House of Representatives, where it was tied to a retirement savings bill as an amendment, and passed Thursday.

When it got back to the Senate, the larger piece of legislation failed to pass and make its way to the President Trump's desk.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Air Force)

Two airmen were administratively punished for drinking at the missile launch control center for 150 nuclear LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, the Air Force confirmed to Task & Purpose on Friday.

Read More Show Less

Two F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters recently flew a mission in the Middle East in "beast mode," meaning they were loaded up with as much firepower as they could carry.

The F-35s with the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron took off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates to execute a mission in support of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Air Forces Central Command revealed. The fifth-generation fighters sacrificed their high-end stealth to fly with a full loadout of weaponry on their wings.

Read More Show Less