A team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and George Mason University is working to create a wetsuit for the US Navy, designed for use in cold Arctic waters. The project is funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
The goal of the project is to create a diving suit in which divers can feel comfortable in icy water, like marine mammals - whales, walruses and seals.
Most current wetsuits use a combination of neoprene and a small layer of water heated by the diver's body to retain warmth, which provides an acceptable level of warmth in waters with temperatures between 10 and 25 ° C.
In the new diving suit, the heat-insulating layer of air in the pores of neoprene is replaced by heavy inert gases - xenon and krypton, which give neoprene properties similar to the fat layer of marine animals. To make such a replacement, it is necessary to place the wetsuit in a special tank and start pumping inert gas there. In a few hours, the gas penetrates the pores and displaces air from there.
According to ONR specialists, thanks to this, the suit retains heat for several hours at temperatures up to 10 ° C. The suit is gassed a few hours before the dive. To prevent the gas from escaping, the treated wetsuit is placed in a sealed plastic bag.
The product is currently tested under laboratory conditions. The next stage is sea trials with the participation of civilian divers and Navy specialists.