Researchers from Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Stoll GmBH have developed a smart balaclava that warms oxygen before it is inhaled to reduce athletes' risk of contracting chest infections while training outdoors in winter.

Using flat-bed knitting technology, heating wires were knitted directly into the fabric itself. A knitted patch of electric-conductive yarn fits over the nose and mouth and emits heat when charged with an electric current.

The smart balaclava. Image credit: Stoll GmBH.The smart balaclava. Image credit: Stoll GmBH.The patch connects to a knitted power socket at the back of the balaclava that contains a plus and minus pole to attach to a rechargeable cell battery. When a battery is inserted, the power turns on and the area around the nose and mouth warms up. Electricity cannot be felt by the wearer because the current is so low.

“By using electric-conductive yarns that are so tiny that they cannot be felt by human skin, we’re able to provide a consistent level of warmth to a piece of clothing so that a runner only breathes in warm air," says Tilak Dias, leader of the Advanced Textiles Research Group at NTU's School of Art and Design.

The mask is fully washable and behaves like any other fabric. It incorporates 3D-knitted pre-shape qualities for a more comfortable fit as well as reflective stripes for passive visibility.

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