U.S. Army creates device to keep a soldier's hands warm, eliminating the need for gloves

Forest covered in snow.
Forest covered in snow. Photo credit Getty Images

The United States Army has developed a high-tech solution that will keep a soldier's extremities warm without gloves while allowing them the full dexterity of their hands.

Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine have developed the technology, long sought after by the military, the New York Post reported.

The project has been in the works for 80 years, as soldiers have struggled with sacrificing warmth for function by using gloves.

"Gloves themselves can decrease dexterity by 50 to 70%. We were wondering if we could find a solution that would enable a person to have warm hands, even if bare-handed, so that dexterity could be maintained," Dr. John Castellani of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine told the Post.

While some would recommend not wearing gloves, the cold still affects the hand's ability to function, even more so when bare, according to Castellani, a lead researcher on the project.

"This is due to the fact that in cold environments, the body reduces blood flow to the periphery to protect core temperature," Castellani said, the Post reported. "So areas like the hands and feet see less blood flow and therefore skin temperature decreases."

While the use of gloves for an everyday person would mean that they can't use their phone correctly, it could mean life or death for a soldier if they can't operate or reload their weapon.

Dr. John Castellani has worked to create a way to increase blood flow in the hands, thus keeping them warm, without obstructing a soldier's ability to use their hands.

Castellani has worked for decades on the problem, studying how cold weather affects a fighting soldier's health and performance. Now he has helped develop a device with other scientists to solve the problem.

The Personal Heating Dexterity Device allows a person's hands and fingers to stay warm in cold weather, eliminating the need for gloves and preventing the loss of hand function in the cold.

The purpose of PHD2 is to increase hand and finger temperature by providing external heat to the user's forearms, which is then absorbed, raising the temperature of the hands and fingers.

"This increase in temperatures will improve dexterity," Castellani said.

Castellani pointed to several cold weather impacts on a soldier, including aerobic and anaerobic performance, endurance, muscular strength, cognition, manual dexterity, and fluid balance.

With the hopes of deploying the PHD2 by 2026 at the earliest, researchers have sent a very early field prototype that they will get feedback on from troops at the Arctic Eagle, a joint exercise in Alaska.

"We need to develop prototypes with advanced materials and power supplies so that it is form-fitting and weighs very little," Castellani said. "Soldiers already are burdened with carrying too much weight. So that is what we'll be doing in the next few years."

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