Phase-change materials (PCM) can be used to reduce thermal stress and improve thermal comfort for workers wearing protective clothing. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of PCM in protective clothing used in simulated work situations. We hypothesized that it would be possible to optimize cooling performance with a design that focuses on careful positioning of PCM, minimizing total insulation and facilitating moisture transport. Thermal stress and thermal comfort were estimated through measurement of body heat production, body temperatures, sweat production, relative humidity in clothing and subjective ratings of thermal comfort, thermal sensitivity and perception of wetness. Experiments were carried out using 2 types of PCM, the crystalline dehydrate of sodium sulphate and microcapsules in fabrics. The results of 1 field and 2 laboratory experimental series were conclusive in that reduced thermal stress and improved thermal comfort were related to the amount and distribution of PCM, reduced sweat production and adequate transport of moisture.
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