Haryana’s Bhiwani, best known as Olympics bronze medalist boxer Vijender Singh’s hometown, may get another 15 minutes of fame if the efforts of eight youngsters from the city pay off. The Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences (TIT&S) students claim to have developed a lightweight jacket — it weighs only 530gm — to keep army jawans warm even in sub-zero temperatures.
They have developed the jacket keeping in mind Indian Army jawans posted in Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. Extreme temperatures — as low as -55°C — have claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers in Siachen. The Army has long relied on imported wearables, with delivery time and fluctuating foreign exchange rates often messing up the procurement. Besides, conventional jackets are stuffed with bird feathers or use a battery-dependent heating system, which make them bulky. The weight bogs down the soldiers, who have to carry heavy weapons and equipment on high altitudes.
The half-sleeve prototype jacket is made of a special thermoelectric generator fabric that can convert the wearer’s body heat into electricity, providing the 2.4 Volts required for the heating layer to work
Saumen Bhattacharya, a faculty member at TIT&S and the students’ mentor, told FactorDaily that their jacket has a unique self-heating mechanism. It has four layers: a waterproof outer layer, an insulating layer, an electric heating layer and an inner layer.
The half-sleeve prototype jacket is made of a special thermoelectric generator (TEG) fabric that can convert the wearer’s body heat into electricity, providing the 2.4 Volts required for the heating layer to work.
Rupesh Walia, the final-year B Tech (textile technology) student who led the team effort, said that the imported jackets the armed forces use in high altitudes work on a 9-Volt battery (the standard AAA-size cells, the kind that power remote controls, pack 1.5 Volts), which add to the weight.
The heating layer consists of nichrome (a nickel alloy) wires and the TEG circuit. The circuit comprises 810 tiny electrical devices called thermocouple junctions that are woven into the fabric so they can’t even be felt by the wearer.
The students started work on the jacket last June. Walia, 21, said initially they were not sure if their concept of the TEG fabric could be translated into reality. Another team member, Rohit Sharma, said the prototype cost a steep Rs15,000 to develop as it involved a lot of trial and error. But now that they have it all figured out, each jacket will cost just Rs 2,000-2,500 to produce even if the minimum order is just 30 pieces.
The other students who worked on the jacket are: Deepak Bhardwaj, Ashwani Sharma, Brajesh Kumar, Sachin Kumar, Sahil Saini, Dinesh Kumar.
The prototype cost a steep Rs15,000 to develop but now that they have it all figured out, each jacket will cost just Rs 2,000-2,500 to produce even if the minimum order is just 30 pieces
To be sure, there have been several attempts in the past to develop such heating jackets. Hyderabad-based Dhama Innovations, for instance, developed a jacket about eight years ago. Though it was tested in the extreme cold of Siachen, demand for the product didn’t scale up.
Wired for success?
Walia said the team has got the jacket’s thermal resistance value checked by experts at IIT, Delhi, who found it effective in harsh climatic conditions.
The prototype has one downside, though: it is not washable. However, Bhattacharya said this issue can be addressed once they can secure funds to develop the jacket further. He said they have approached the All India Council for Technical Education to support their project.
“We are very hopeful that the required help will arrive to (support) our project. Before making it (available) for public use, we want it to be patented. That will take up to six months” — Saumen Bhattacharya, a faculty member at TIT&S
“We are very hopeful that the required help will arrive to (support) our project. Before making it (available) for public use, we want it to be patented. That will take up to six months,” he said, adding after this they’ll take their product to the Army.
Colonel Aman Anand, the spokesperson of the Indian Army, said the jacket would need to go through their evaluation process to make the cut. He said the Army would consider it for use only after their experts are impressed by it and find it useful in high altitudes.
Walia, who hails from Bhiwani district’s Kakdoli Sardana village, said before taking up engineering, he aspired to serve in the Indian armed forces. He had cleared the written exam and the physical fitness test to join the Navy, but a negative medical report derailed his dream. He now he hopes to help the Army with this jacket, which will make the jawans’ lives a lot easier.
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Lead visual: Angela Anthony Pereira Inside image: Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India. Sat Singh is a Rohtak-based freelance writer and Indervesh Duhan is a Bhiwani, Haryana-based freelance writer. Both are members of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.