Super-insulating noble gas-infused neoprene foams for wetsuit applications

J. Moran
George Mason University, Virginia, United States

Keywords: wetsuits, neoprene, insulation, Navy divers

Insufficient thermal insulation limits warfighter activity in cold water. Divers wearing conventional neoprene wetsuits can become vulnerable to hypothermia within ~30 min in water below 10°C. This compromises the warfighter's ability to carry out his or her duties underwater in cold conditions. Most wetsuits are fabricated from foam neoprene, a spongy closed-cell foam with air-filled cells. Herein, we develop ultra-insulating closed-cell neoprene garments by replacing air with high-molecular-weight noble gases that insulate more effectively than air. We demonstrate that the infusion of argon, krypton, or xenon into neoprene results in reductions in thermal conductivity as high as 40%. This enhanced insulation performance could have significant benefits for warfighters as it could allow divers in near-freezing water to spend as long as 2 or 3 hours underwater.