Title:
Personal ventilating garment apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A personal ventilating garment apparatus includes a ventilation unit connected to an air distribution garment, either directly or using a hose extension, and is operable to generate a flow of air from the ambient to the air distribution garment. The air distribution garment includes a spacer material that allows substantially omni-direction airflow therein. The air distribution garment also includes an air impermeable outer fabric.



Inventors:
Sawicki, Jack (Arlington, VA, US)
Riccio, Louis (Malvern, PA, US)
Jacob, Elie (Springfield, PA, US)
Wiggins, James (Thurmont, MD, US)
Application Number:
11/592327
Publication Date:
05/31/2007
Filing Date:
11/03/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41D13/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20030019005Direct vision enhancerJanuary, 2003Burnett
20060143777Lined medical scrubsJuly, 2006Dennis et al.
20050223465Article of apparel for temperature moderationOctober, 2005Williams et al.
20080222782Decorative Removable Helmet CoverSeptember, 2008Stokes
20090241237Med ready glovesOctober, 2009Greenfield
20090050708Wickable wearing apparel system containing bait and/or cover scent and method of useFebruary, 2009Hood
20090193559Method and apapratus to cover eyes while sleepingAugust, 2009Ritchey
20090163098LOW WEIGHT AND HIGH DURABILITY SOFT BODY ARMOR COMPOSITE USING SILICONE-BASED TOPICAL TREATMENTSJune, 2009Ardiff et al.
20070044198Blouse front closerMarch, 2007Whicker
20090107515PROTECTIVE MASKApril, 2009Gavriely
20100095423MAGNETIC FLIP OPERABLE BIBApril, 2010Lucas



Primary Examiner:
QUINN, RICHALE LEE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NIXON PEABODY, LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A personal ventilating garment apparatus comprising: an air distribution garment including an air impermeable fabric defining an interior of said air distribution garment sized to receive a wearer therein, and a spacer material that is positioned in said interior of said air distribution garment so that said spacer material contacts the wearer when said air distribution garment is worn, said spacer material allowing substantially omni-directional airflow therein; and at least one ventilation unit that flows air through said spacer material.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said spacer material has a thickness dimension in a range of approximately 0.125 to 0.75 inch, inclusive.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein said spacer material has a thickness dimension of approximately 0.25 to 0.375 inch, inclusive.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said spacer material defines a plenum between said air impermeable fabric and the wearer of the air distribution garment.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said spacer material is adjacent to said air impermeable fabric.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one ventilation unit pushes air through said spacer material.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said at least one ventilation unit includes a heater to heat the air provided by said at least one ventilation unit.

8. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said at least one ventilation unit cools the wearer.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one ventilation unit pulls air through said spacer material.

10. The apparatus of claim 9, further including a fabric plenum fluidically connected to said at least one ventilation unit and said spacer material, said fabric plenum including a plurality of openings that open to said spacer material.

11. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein said air impermeable fabric of said air distribution garment includes an air inlet opening to allow air to be pulled into said spacer material.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said ventilation unit includes an external power source connector.

13. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one ventilation unit is a plurality of ventilation units.

14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein at least one of said plurality of ventilation units pushes air through said spacer material, and at least one of said plurality of ventilation units pulls air through said spacer material.

15. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said air distribution garment includes at least one pocket, and said at least one ventilation unit is received in said pocket, said pocket including an opening by which air is provided to said spacer material, and a mesh wall through which ambient air is provided to said at least one ventilation unit.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein said at least one ventilation unit includes a lip extension that extends through said opening of said pocket, and a manifold that engages said lip extension and directs airflow to said spacer material.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein said manifold includes an elastic cuff that engages said lip extension of said ventilation unit.

18. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a belt that supports said at least one ventilation unit.

19. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a duct that fluidically interconnects said at least one ventilation unit to said air distribution garment.

20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein said duct includes at least one flexible joint.

21. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein said duct is a hose duct with corrugations.

22. The apparatus of claim 1, further including a carrier sized to secure said at least one ventilation unit.

23. An air distribution garment comprising: an air impermeable fabric defining an interior of said air distribution garment that is sized to receive a wearer therein; and a spacer material positioned in said interior of said air distribution garment adjacent said air impermeable fabric, said spacer material being in contact with the wearer and being positioned between the wearer and the air impermeable fabric when said air distribution garment is worn; wherein said spacer material allows substantially omni-direction airflow therein.

24. The garment of claim 23, wherein said spacer material has a thickness dimension in a range of approximately 0.25 to 0.375 inch, inclusive.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Continuation In Part application and claims the benefit of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/169,145 filed Jun. 29, 2005, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention is broadly directed to personal ventilating garments that may provide temperature regulation, with specific descriptions pertaining to cooling garments worn by persons subjected to elevated or reduced temperature conditions, and more specifically, to a ventilated garment that preferably covers an individual's torso, and whose airflow configuration is optimized to ensure wide propagation of the air throughout the garment.

2. Description of the Related Art

Elevated temperatures affect an individual's ability to function, concentrate and remain alert. This may lead to accidents, injuries and even death if heat stress is not properly managed. Although heat stress affects individuals who are required to perform their duties outdoors or in elevated or reduced temperature environments, heat stress management is especially critical for combat soldiers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, and others where life or death decisions require clear thinking and decisive actions.

A wide range of cooling garments have been developed and introduced in order to manage heat stress. In these garments, the basic function is to increase the amount of heat transferred from the body to the cooling medium within the garment, where it is thereafter dissipated, resulting in greater comfort for the cooling garment wearer.

Many types of personal cooling garments have been developed to reduce and manage heat stress exposure. Such cooling garments and apparatus include circulating liquid systems, phase change material (PCM) cooling devices, and circulating air systems. In addition, there are systems relying on fabrics to transfer moisture or heat from the skin, thereby providing a cooling effect. These fabric-based systems, however, are less efficient at heat dissipation than the other existing systems described below.

Circulating liquid systems generally utilize a heat sink or reservoir containing water or other coolant, a pump, and a heat exchanger. The cool liquid is circulated in a closed system through a network of tubes within the garment, where it absorbs heat from the body and then passes through the heat exchanger before circulating back to the heat sink. Weight, power consumption, and size are drawbacks of these types of cooling systems. In addition, the network of internal tubes to distribute the cooling liquid raises the cost, potential failure modes, and complexity of the garment and reduces its reliability and usefulness.

Phase change material (PCM) cooling devices are garments containing small packets of phase change material, such as ice or certain chemical polymers, that absorb the heat produced by the human body, with the cooling capacity determined by the amount of phase change material contained in the garment. Long-term and remote use of such a cooling garment is impractical, given the weight of the phase change material and the need to re-freeze the phase change material packets periodically.

Circulating air systems typically comprise an air source and a network of tubes or channels within the garment to distribute air throughout the garment, thus removing excess heat as the circulated air absorbs the body heat. The network of tubes or channels, however, adds to the cost and complexity of manufacture. Moreover, the network of tubes and channels creates internal flow losses, requiring a larger air generating unit to propagate the air through the garment. However, the noise generated by the larger air source may affect the performance of the person wearing the garment, especially soldiers, firefighters and other emergency responders. The noise and energy radiation will also increase a soldier's battlefield signature, increasing the likelihood of detection.

Another drawback of existing cooling devices is that while providing some degree of cooling, many experience problems in propagating the cooling fluid uniformly throughout the cooling garment, especially those relying on ambient air flow where a network of internal tubes or channels are not supplied. For example, while an individual's back may experience sufficient cooling when the air source is located behind the person, the upper shoulders and front torso may not experience sufficient cooling due to inadequate airflow.

Accordingly, there is a continuing need and desire for a lightweight, portable and long duration cooling garment that can efficiently and uniformly distribute air throughout the garment even without a network of internal tubes to carry the air.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a personal ventilating garments that may promote temperature regulation for the wearer, with specific reference and descriptions to air-cooled garment embodiments that addresses one or more of the limitations of the present devices. Although many of the descriptions of the present invention are provided with reference to cooling, the same techniques may be applied generally to temperature regulation of any desired type, and may, for example, include heating the wearer.

The present invention provides, for example, a personal cooling apparatus including a ventilation unit operable to generate a flow of air, with an outlet connector to direct the generated air to an air distribution garment. The air distribution garment may include a 3-dimensional spacer material with outer fabric cover made of a generally air impermeable, flexible, but strong material that may contour to a person's body when worn, while defining a plenum against the wearer's body, clothing or air permeable inner fabric for the air to flow throughout the air distribution garment. The airflow may then move hot or warm air away from the body, and when the user is perspiring, the airflow may also provide an evaporative cooling effect that may otherwise be prevented due to layers of clothing and/or equipment also worn by the user. An air dam may be positioned within the air distribution garment for directing the airflow from the ventilation unit in one or more directions to facilitate propagation of the air throughout the air distribution garment. A means for preventing air from flowing out the bottom of the air distribution garment may also be provided. One or more ventilation units may alternatively be provided to blow and/or exhaust air, and thereby enhance airflow, reduce weight, improve reliability, or otherwise enhance performance of the apparatus.

The air dam may be a length of fabric disposed on an inner surface of the air distribution garment, or a triangular shaped air dam disposed within the air distribution garment, or other means.

Preferably, the outlet of the ventilation unit includes a Y-shaped, T-shaped, or L-shaped connector where it connects to the air distribution garment, to facilitate directing the air in one or more directions and may be adapted to provide this function both prior to and after the air enters the air distribution garment. Other outlet configurations to disperse the air may be used in other embodiments.

The natural openings for the arms and neck allow air to escape from the plenum and carry heat away from the body, and provide an evaporative cooling effect. Optional air holes or vents can be oriented along the outer edge or seam of the air distribution garment or at other locations to provide alternate escape routes for the air and optimize air propagation uniformity throughout the air distribution garment.

In accordance with another embodiment, the personal ventilating garment apparatus includes an air distribution garment including an air impermeable fabric that defines an interior of the air distribution garment sized to receive a wearer therein. The air distribution garment includes a spacer material that is positioned in the interior of the air distribution garment so that the spacer material contacts the wearer when the air distribution garment is worn. In accordance with the present invention, the spacer material may allow substantially omni-directional airflow therein. The ventilating garment apparatus also includes at least one ventilation unit that flows air through the spacer material. In one implementation, the spacer material has a thickness dimension in a range of approximately 0.125 to 0.75 inch, and preferably approximately 0.25 to 0.375 inch. The spacer material is preferably adjacent to the air impermeable fabric, and functions to define a plenum between the air impermeable fabric and the wearer of the air distribution garment.

The ventilation unit may be implemented to push the air through the spacer material. In such an embodiment, the ventilation unit may further be implemented to include a heater to heat the air provided. In accordance another embodiment, the ventilation unit may be implemented to pull the air through the spacer material. In such an embodiment, a fabric plenum may be provided which fluidically connects the ventilation unit and the spacer material, the fabric plenum including a plurality of openings that open to the spacer material. In addition, the air impermeable fabric of the air distribution garment may be implemented with an air inlet opening to allow air to be pulled into the spacer material.

The ventilation unit may be implemented with an external power source connector. In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, a plurality of ventilation units may be provided. In one specific implementation, at least one ventilation unit may be operated to push air through the spacer material, while another at least one ventilation unit may be operated to pull air through the spacer material.

In accordance with another embodiment, the air distribution garment may be implemented with a pocket, and the ventilation unit may be received in the pocket. In such an embodiment, the pocket includes an opening by which air is provided to the spacer material, and a mesh wall through which ambient air is provided to the ventilation unit. In this regard, the ventilation unit may be implemented with a lip extension that extends through the opening of the pocket, and a manifold with an elastic cuff that engages the lip extension and directs airflow to the spacer material.

In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, the ventilating garment apparatus of the present invention may be provided with a belt that supports the ventilation unit. Such implementation allows the ventilation unit to be positioned a distance from the connector to the air distribution garment. Correspondingly, a duct that fluidically interconnects the ventilation unit to the air distribution garment may be provided. Preferably, the duct includes at least one flexible joint. In one implementation, the duct may be a hose duct that has corrugations. Moreover, the ventilating garment apparatus may also be provided with a carrier sized to secure the ventilation unit.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, an air distribution garment is provided which includes an air impermeable fabric defining an interior of the air distribution garment sized to receive a wearer therein, and a spacer material positioned in the interior of the air distribution garment adjacent the air impermeable fabric, the spacer material being in contact with the wearer, and being positioned between the wearer and the air impermeable fabric when the air distribution garment is worn, where the spacer material allows substantially omni-direction airflow therein. Preferably, the spacer material has a thickness dimension in a range of approximately 0.25 to 0.375 inch, inclusive.

These and other advantages and features of the present invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the present invention when viewed in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above objects and other advantages of the present invention will become more apparent by describing in detail the preferred embodiments thereof with reference to the attached drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the ventilation unit and air distribution garment of an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a more detailed perspective view of the connection between the ventilation unit and air distribution garment of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the ventilation unit in use supported by body armor by straps;

FIG. 4 is schematic view of the interior configuration of the air distribution garment of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the flexible spacer material and how it is integrated into the air distribution garment;

FIG. 6A is a side cross-sectional view taken along the line 6′-6′ in FIG. 5;

FIG. 6B is a side cross-sectional view of a spacer material in accordance with another embodiment;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the air distribution garment as worn by an individual;

FIG. 8 is a modified view of FIG. 4, illustrating an embodiment having shaped inserts positioned within the plenum;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the air distribution garment having a means for preventing air from flowing out of the lower edge of the air distribution garment;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a rear view of a ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with still another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 12 is a front view of a ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a front view of a portion of a ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 14A is a perspective view of a ventilation unit in accordance with one example implementation;

FIG. 14B is a frontal view of the ventilation unit of FIG. 14A;

FIG. 15 shows a perspective view of a pocket for the ventilation unit of

FIG. 14A, and a manifold for connection to the air distribution garment;

FIG. 16 is a rear perspective view of a ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with still another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of a ventilation unit of the ventilating garment apparatus of FIG. 16;

FIG. 18 is an internal view of a ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 19 is a front view of a portion of a ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 20 is a rear view of a ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention which includes a belt;

FIG. 21 is an enlarged view of the ventilation unit of the ventilating garment apparatus of FIG. 20;

FIG. 22 is a perspective view of a ventilation unit and a duct hose in accordance with another implementation;

FIG. 23 is an exploded view of a connector for the duct hose of FIG. 22;

FIG. 24A is a perspective view of a ventilation unit carrier in accordance with one implementation;

FIG. 24B is a rear view of the ventilation unit carrier of FIG. 24A which is secured to a belt; and

FIG. 24C is an enlarged perspective view of the MOLLE loops of the ventilation unit carrier shown in FIG. 24B.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention will now be described more fully with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which various preferred or alternate embodiments of the invention are shown. The invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as being limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, the embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will convey the concept of the invention to those skilled in the art.

Broadly described, the present invention may, for example, include a ventilation unit operable to generate a flow of air, and an air distribution garment connected to the ventilation unit to distribute the generated air uniformly throughout the air distribution garment. In one embodiment, when the air distribution garment is worn by a person it substantially covers the person's torso. The thickness of the spacer material comprising the air distribution garment, the directionality of the air flow, and supply pressure of the air may be optimized to ensure the most uniform propagation of airflow throughout the garment when it is worn by the individual. In preferred embodiments, the present invention uses ambient air to flow about the torso of the person to lower the heat stress on the individual.

Possible users for such a cooling garment are numerous, and include anyone requiring cooling of the body while carrying out a particular task. Examples of potential users include combat soldiers, police, wildland firefighters, rescue workers, outdoor workers and laborers, athletes, sportsman, and any other persons performing an activity in elevated temperature environments, or low temperature embodiments when implemented to heat air, whether the environment is indoors or outdoors.

For example, heat stress is prevalent for combat soldiers loaded with equipment. The soldiers are encumbered with multiple layers of fabrics of clothing, armor protection and load bearing harnesses. The present invention provides, for example, an integrated, lightweight, portable, and long duration device that is able to relieve heat stress, even when the soldier is wearing full battle gear.

More specifically, as shown in FIG. 1, an embodiment of the invention includes a ventilation unit 10, operable to generate a flow of air, which is connected to an air distribution garment 20, operable to distribute the air throughout the garment and thereby cool the wearer of the garment by removing metabolic heat through convention and evaporative cooling. The ventilation unit 10 may be directly connected to the air distribution garment 20 as shown in the illustrated embodiment. However, in alternative embodiments of the present invention further described below, the ventilation unit may be connected to the air distribution garment by means of a suitable hose extension, and may push air into and/or pull air out of, the garment.

As shown in FIG. 2, the ventilation unit 10 includes a DC blower 12 for suctioning air into the ventilation unit 10. The source of air is preferably ambient air, but may include pressurized air by connecting a container of the pressurized air to the ventilation unit 10. Also, although a DC blower may be preferred for certain applications, one of skill in the art would realize the invention could be adapted to incorporate, if needed, an AC blower (with a suitable AC power source). In addition, microelectromechanical system (MEMS) and nanotechnology based fans/blowers may be implemented in still other embodiments. A filter 14 may be provided downstream of the ventilation unit intake and upstream of the blower 12 to filter the suctioned air. It should further be noted the ventilating garment apparatus 10 in accordance with the present invention may also be implemented so that the ventilation unit 10 provides heated air to the air distribution garment 20. In such an embodiment, the ventilation unit 10 is further adapted to heat the ambient air before providing the air to the air distribution garment.

FIG. 2 shows a battery 16 functioning as the DC power source for the ventilation unit 10. The battery 16 may be disposable or rechargeable, and may include for example, a NICAD, NiMH, Lithium-Ion, lead acid or other rechargeable battery, or alkaline, Zinc-Air, or Lithium Sulfur Dioxide primary battery. Other existing or emerging battery technologies may be incorporated in the present invention. Preferably, the batteries may be housed in the ventilation unit 10 itself, or attached to the ventilation unit 10, although they need not be. In addition, the power source may comprise any other suitable form, such as fuel cells, solar cells, or be based on other emerging portable power generating technologies such as nuclear cells, thin films, fibers, or piezoelectric technologies.

Preferably for certain applications, the ventilation unit 10 may provide a low flow rate of 10 cubic feet per minute (cfm) at a minimum of 3 inches of water pressure head (about 0.1 psi), although other flow rates are contemplated, so long as the air is uniformly propagated throughout the air distribution garment 20. The use of a low flow rate ventilation unit 10 has certain advantages, in that it reduces the size and cost of the required blower 12, reduces the required size of the battery 16 to power the unit for a certain period of time (or uses a certain battery size for an extended period of time), and reduces the noise or energy signature associated with generating the airflow.

To comply with certain performance specifications, such as military specifications, the ventilation unit 10 can be made more robust or rugged by adding a lightweight foam or protective layer around the entire unit, and/or by separately ruggedizing the individual components of the unit.

The outlet connector of the ventilation unit 10 for certain embodiments preferably may have a plurality of outlet orifices to direct the generated air in at least two separate directions as it enters the air distribution garment 20 as described more fully later. The outlet connector 18 may be Y-shaped as shown in FIG. 2, T-shaped, which both may direct the air upward and/or laterally within the air distribution garment 20, or of any other acceptable configuration such as be L-shaped for the specified use. Of course, the outlet connector 18 may also have more than two orifices to facilitate air propagation within the air distribution garment 20. Preferably, in whatever configuration, the flow of air from the ventilation unit 10 is split before entering the air distribution garment 20 to facilitate airflow in different directions.

The connector may also be implemented as a straight in-line connector or with any other shape, so long as the air generated by the ventilation unit 10 can pass to the air distribution garment 20, and there were some means within the air distribution garment 20 to allow the air to propagate in different directions.

The detachable connection between the ventilation unit 10 and air distribution garment 20 may be engineered with any suitable fastening device sufficient to secure the two units while in use. Preferably, another suitable supporting apparatus for connecting the units, such as connecting straps 30 shown in FIG. 3, may be used to provide additional securing means for certain embodiments of this invention. Similarly, waist straps 31 extending from the ventilation unit 10 and around the person's waist or hips (see FIG. 3 and FIG. 7) may be provided as an additional securing means to eliminate shifting of the ventilation unit 10 when the person is moving or performing strenuous activity.

A power switch 19, as provided in certain embodiments, is preferably a push-on, push-off type that is fitted with a water resistant boot and guard because the invention may be used in extreme environments. Other types of on-off switches are contemplated within the scope of the present invention.

Referring to FIG. 4, the internal construction and features of certain embodiments of the air distribution garment 20 will be described in greater detail. The garment 20 is preferably made of a flexible polypropylene or other spacer material 40, with a fabric 47, a portion 44b of which covers one side of the spacer material 40 and serves as the outer covering for the air distribution garment 20. The fabric 47 is preferably implemented to be lightweight and non-air permeable. In the illustrated embodiment, portion 44b of the fabric 47 wraps around the peripheral edge of the spacer material 40 to seal the peripheral edge thereof. When the air distribution garment 20 is worn over the body, a plenum 42 may be defined by the spacer material 40 between the fabric 47 and the wearer of the distribution garment 20 (see FIGS. 6A and 6B) so that the ambient air can flow throughout the air distribution garment 20.

The spacer material 40 is basically a three dimensional fabric that should be flexible enough to contour to the body, but does not crush under the weight of multiple layers of clothing and equipment typically worn by those working in elevated temperature environments. In fact, as shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B, the spacer material 40 may, in certain embodiments, form a porous, cage-like structure with sufficient strength to maintain the integrity of the plenum 42 while minimizing restrictions to airflow. In this regard, the spacer material 40 may be implemented as a material which allows omni-directional airflow therein. In other words, the spacer material 40 preferably allows air to move in and through the material substantially unimpeded in the planar (transverse) directions of the material, as well as in the thickness direction of the material, thereby allowing omni-directional airflow therein. Thus, the airflow is merely impeded by the wearer, the air impervious fabric, and the seal along the periphery of the spacer material. In one implementation, the spacer material 40 may be a three dimensional mesh, the mesh having a thickness dimension in the range of approximately 0.125 to 0.75 inch, inclusive, and preferably, approximately 0.25 to 0.375 inch.

Note that in this embodiment, the present invention does not require any internal tubes or defined channels to carry air throughout the garment, thereby minimizing flow loses within such tubes and channels, while simultaneously increasing air propagation efficiency and uniformity. An additional benefit of this embodiment of the present invention is that it is simpler and less expensive to manufacture and of higher reliability. Preferably, in certain embodiments, the plenum 42 of 0.25 to 0.375 inch in thickness, which results from implementing the spacer material with the corresponding thickness dimensions between 0.25 to 0.375 inch noted above, provides an optimum tradeoff between weight, garment thickness/profile, individual mobility, and air propagation. Other plenum thicknesses are contemplated within the scope of the present invention.

Other suitable materials for the spacer material 40 include, for example, polyethylene, polyolefin or equivalent materials, both natural and synthetic, exhibiting the proper flexibility and strength characteristics. The spacer material should also be fire retardant when used for specified functions.

As further shown in an embodiment depicted in FIG. 4, the lower seam 90 of the air distribution garment 20 may be widened and contain a lightweight foam insert 95 that functions as a means of preventing air from escaping from the bottom of the air distribution garment 20. This forces the air within the plenum 42 upward and laterally, to increase the air propagation uniformity throughout the air distribution garment. A foam insert 95 may be shaped or tapered to conform to a person's body, with a greater thickness at the center of the back, and a reduced thickness as the foam insert 95 spans out to the edges of the air distribution garment 20.

More preferably, as shown in FIG. 9, the means for preventing air flow from the bottom is provided that includes an elastic cuff or waist band 97 attached to the bottom of the air distribution garment, which prevents the air from escaping from the bottom of the garment 20. The elastic cuff or waist band 97 may be made of any flexible, impermeable or semi-permeable material such as spandex, chloroprene, or other suitable material or fabric. Similar to the foam inserts 95, the elastic cuff 97 forces the air within the plenum 42 upward and laterally to increase the air propagation uniformity throughout the air distribution garment.

An air dam 50 may be centrally positioned on, or within, the air distribution garment 20. As shown in FIG. 4, for example, a substantially triangular shaped air dam 50 may be centrally positioned within the air distribution garment 20. Other shapes are contemplated within the scope of the present invention. The air dam 50 can be made of non-porous foam or equivalent material. As shown in FIG. 4, the apex 52 of the air dam 50 may be curved, or it may have a more angular design. In either case, the apex 52 may be positioned adjacent to the Y-connector 18 from the ventilation unit 10 where it enters the air distribution garment 20. The Y-connector 18 may initially split and direct air from the ventilation unit 10 in separate directions as the air enters the air distribution garment 20. The air dam 50 shape and positioning may further assist this directional flow of air, and ensure the air is propagated 54 throughout the air distribution garment 20.

Preferably, the apex 52 of the air dam 50 may conform to the recessed portion 52a of the Y-shaped connector 18, thereby sealing and creating, either physically or functionally, two sub-plenums 42a, 42b (see FIG. 5) within the air distribution garment 20 because, in this example, the air does not cross over the combination of the air dam 50 and Y-connector 18. As noted, the connector may be shaped differently in other embodiments of the present invention.

Another suitable air dam 55 is shown in FIG. 2. In this embodiment, the triangular shaped air dam 50 within the air distribution garment 20 is replaced by a substantially air-impermeable fabric 55 substantially spanning a vertical dimension on an inner surface (closest to the person's body) of the air distribution garment 20, where the air distribution garment 20 connects to the ventilation unit 10. The fabric air dam 55 may be of various shapes, including for example, rectangular, triangular or diamond shaped.

It has been found that this fabric air dam 55 may capture a certain portion of the air originally entering the air distribution garment 20 from the ventilation unit 10, creating an initial cooling effect. Moreover, movement by the person may create a certain pumping action, which in conjunction with the contours of a person's back, helps to distribute the inlet air in different directions throughout the plenum. The air dams 50, 55 may be used individually, or in combination, to achieve the desired effect of uniformly propagating air throughout the air distribution garment 20. The air dam as described above may be unnecessary in an embodiment of the apparatus where sufficient air flow is created.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the flexible spacer material 40 and how it is integrated into the air distribution garment 20, providing two separate plenums 42a, 42b that are fed by the Y-connector 18. FIG. 6A is a side cross-sectional view taken along the line 6′-6′ in FIG. 5, and more clearly illustrates the plenum 42 created by the three dimensional cage-like structure of the spacer material 40, the outer fabric cover and the wearer's body, or clothing. FIG. 6B illustrates an alternative edge configuration of the flexible spacer material 40 so as to prevent the escape of ambient air through the edge of the air distribution garment 20. As can be seen, instead of wrapping the fabric 47 an edge binding 45 is provided at the peripheral edge of the spacer material 40, thereby effectively sealing the peripheral edge. The edge binding 45 is preferably made of a fabric that is sewn on to the peripheral edge of the spacer material, and is also preferably substantially non-air permeable, for example, by coating.

As noted, a lightweight, non-air permeable, coated fabric 47 is provided on the outer side of the spacer material 40 (i.e., the side not in contact with the person) to prevent the air from flowing directly out of the three dimensional spacer material 40 in all directions. Other fabrics contemplated for use when fire retardancy is required include aramid fiber, para-aramid fiber and self-extinguishing modified acrylic. In addition to flowing through the plenum 42 and along the person's body, the air is allowed to escape though the natural openings for the arms and neck as well as through optional air holes or vents provided near, or along, the outer seam or edge of the air distribution garment as described later, or may be located elsewhere on the garment.

Preferably, the air distribution garment 20 is of sufficient size to suitably cover the torso of a person or other areas where the temperature of the person is to be regulated. Referring to FIG. 2 and FIG. 4, the air inlet section, comprising Y-connector 18 and air dam 50 or 55, is preferably positioned such that when the person wears the air distribution garment 20, the air dam 50 or 55 is placed in the middle of the lower back of the person. Because the air is divided and supplied equally to both halves of the air distribution garment 20, and combined with the placement and configuration of the air dam 50 or 55, the greatest propagation of air flow throughout the garment may be realized.

In FIG. 4, note that upper seam 60 may have an undulating shape, whereby the center and ends are higher than the intervening sections. This is to accommodate a person's underarms when placing the garment 20 around the torso, while still providing a maximum cooling surface area and sufficient mobility when worn. See FIG. 7, which illustrates the garment 20 positioned properly on an individual. This embodiment is not limited to an undulating shape as other configurations/shapes are also effective.

The undulating shape described above takes advantage of the underarm as an escape route for the airflow. Since each person's body shape and movement mechanics are slightly different, even when the garment 20 is properly positioned and fitted correctly, when a person moves, a certain amount of air will escape from the underarm arm area, and to a lesser extent the neck area, thereby cooling the person. The heat emanating from the individual's body is thus carried away by the airflow within the garment 20 and exhausted into the ambient air. Moreover, during elevated ambient temperatures when body perspiration is present, the present invention moves air across the torso and creates an evaporative cooling effect that helps to further relieve heat stress.

As shown in FIG. 4, airflow and air propagation paths 54 within the garment 20 may also be increased by placing air holes or vents 70 near, or along, the outer seam 60 or edge of the garment 20. Alternately, the air holes 70 may be positioned near, or along, the outer edge of the outer fabric layer 47 described with reference to FIG. 6A. This alternate embodiment would be preferable, for example, if stretch air-impermeable material or fabric (for example, spandex, chloroprene or other similarly functioning material or fabric) was placed around the upper or side edges of the air distribution garment 20, to achieve a greater body-conforming fitting scenario. Air holes 70 may be positioned anywhere in the outer fabric layer 47.

In certain embodiments, air within the plenum 42 is allowed to escape through these air holes 70 and pass into the ambient air. One of skill in the art will realize that the air holes 70 create a pressure differential within the air distribution garment 20 as well as allow the air within the plenum 42 to escape. By positioning and repositioning the air holes 70 near, or along, the outer seam 60, any “hot spots” (areas with insufficient or constricted air flow) can be relieved by positioning an air hole 70 near the hot spot. This will draw a portion of air within the plenum 42 toward the newly positioned air hole 70, thereby cooling the hot spot and providing more uniform flow throughout the air distribution garment 20. Also, by positioning the air holes or vents 70 along the underarm area 80, air at the back of the torso can be brought to the front of the torso, and provide sufficient cooling for the front of the torso, an advantage not seen in existing ambient air cooling systems without internal tubes or channels to carry the air.

Even though the preferred implementations of the present invention do not provide tubes and channels for carrying air, shaped inserts 99 may be positioned with the plenum 42 to increase air propagation uniformity throughout the air distribution garment as shown in FIG. 8. Rather than carrying air internally as done in tubes, these shaped inserts 99 divert, deflect or distribute air due to their shape and placement in the plenum 42. For example, the shaped inserts 99 may be shaped like airfoils, creating certain pressure differentials in desired locations to draw air towards the shaped inserts 99, thereby increasing the air propagation uniformity throughout the air distribution garment 20. Of course, one of skill in the art could determine the optimum positions and shapes of the inserts 99 without undue experimentation. The inserts 99 may be attached (by sewing, use of adhesives or other suitable means) to the flexible material 40 to fix the positions.

The cooling garment of the present invention can be worn under many layers of clothing or equipment without affecting the mobility of the wearer. In order to ensure the cooling garment stays in its proper orientation during use (i.e., without slipping down or rotating about the torso), a series of over-the-shoulder straps 100 as shown in FIG. 1, FIG. 7 and FIG. 9 may be provided.

FIG. 1 shows, for example, that the air distribution garment 20 of the present invention can be integrated with an Interceptor Ballistic Armor (IBA) vest 110 worn by combat troops. The over-the-shoulder straps 100 are threaded though loops in the IBA 110. The garment 20 positioning, adjustments and attachments are carried out prior to donning the IBA 110 to enable the soldier to put on both at the same time. Hook and loop fasteners 120 (see FIG. 7) located on the front of the air distribution garment 20 allow for final adjustment and precise and secure fitting. Alternately, the entire vest could be constructed to full cover the torso, including over the shoulders.

FIG. 10 illustrates a personal ventilating garment apparatus 200 in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention. Initially, the ventilating garment apparatus 200, as well as the additional embodiments described below, function in a substantially similar manner as the embodiments discussed above relative to FIGS. 1 to 9. Correspondingly, detailed discussions of various general functions and features of the ventilating garment apparatus 200 is omitted herein to avoid repetition. However, distinctive and unique features in these alternative embodiments are fully described with sufficient detail to allow one of ordinary skill to practice the invention.

Initially, as can be seen in FIG. 10, the ventilating garment apparatus 200 includes air distribution garment 210 having a spacer material 220 that is made to allow airflow therethrough in the manner previously described relative to the embodiments of FIGS. 1 to 9. In addition, the ventilating garment apparatus 200 also includes an air ventilation unit 230 which functions to draw in the ambient air, and flow the air through the spacer material 220 in the manner also previously described. In this regard, the ventilation unit 230 is received within a pocket 213 of the air distribution garment 210, the pocket 213 having a mesh panel 216 to allow ambient air to be draw through the pocket 213.

As can be seen, the illustrated embodiment of the ventilating garment apparatus 200 is implemented as a vest with integral straps 212 to allow supporting of the apparatus over the shoulders of the wearer. In this regard, the straps 212 are made to be adjustable by providing hook and loop type fasteners thereon so that the length ventilating garment apparatus 200 may be adjusted to allow it to be worn comfortably by users of different body shapes and sizes. In addition, adjustable closures 214 are also provided on the front of the air distribution garment 210 using hook and loop type fasteners to allow the width of the ventilating garment apparatus 200 to be adjusted to accommodate different sized torsos of users. Of course, in other implementations, different types of adjustable fasteners may be used. However, use of hook and loop type fasteners is preferable due to their light weight, strength, and adjustability.

As can also be seen, the ventilating garment apparatus 200 may be implemented with a single ventilation unit 230 which is mounted at the chest area of the air distribution garment 210. A Y-connector 232 (schematically illustrated using dotted lines since it is hidden in the view shown) is provided to distribute the airflow in the manner also schematically shown, thereby providing airflow throughout the spacer material 220 to enhance the comfort of the wearer.

As previously noted, the ventilation units of the ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be utilized to pull the air through the spacer material of the air distribution garment. In this regard, FIG. 11 shows a back view of such an implementation where the ventilating garment apparatus 240 includes a ventilation unit 250 that draws air through the spacer material 260, instead of pushing the air through the spacer material as in the previously described embodiments. In this regard, a fabric plenum 264 is provided at the upper edge of the spacer material 260 in the illustrated embodiment. As shown, the fabric plenum 264 is secured to the inlet of the ventilation unit 250, and is provided with a plurality of openings 266 for evenly drawing the ambient air through the spacer material 260. Furthermore, a plurality of air inlet openings 270 are provided at the bottom of the air distribution garment 244 in the illustrated embodiment to allow ambient air to be drawn into the air distribution garment 244 by the ventilation unit 250. Of course, in other embodiments, the positioning of the air inlet openings and the ventilation unit may be reversed so that the ventilation unit is provided at the bottom of the air distribution garment 244, or be arranged in some other appropriate manner.

It should be further noted that whereas the above described embodiments of the ventilating garment apparatus in accordance with the present invention utilized a single ventilation unit, a plurality of ventilation units may be implemented in other embodiments as also previously noted. For example, FIG. 12 illustrates a ventilating garment apparatus 300 in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention which is implemented as a vest with a center opening. In this regard, a loop and hook fastener 302 is provided to secure the ventilating garment apparatus 300 to the torso of the wearer.

As can be clearly seen, the illustrated embodiment of the ventilating garment apparatus 300 includes a first ventilation unit 310, and a second ventilation unit 320, which are powered by batteries 312 and 322, respectively. In this regard, the air distribution garment 304 is implemented with appropriate pockets for receiving the ventilation units and the batteries. Preferably, in such an embodiment, the two ventilation units provide airflow in the opposite directions as schematically shown in FIG. 12. Each ventilation units may be implemented with a plurality of orifices to direct the air in more than one direction, for example, upwards and towards the back.

By providing multiple ventilation units, higher levels of air flow can be attained through the ventilating garment apparatus 300. Alternatively, by providing multiple ventilation units, each ventilation unit may be implemented to be smaller in size, with a smaller capacity, while maintaining the same amount of desired airflow as a single ventilation unit implementation. This provides added flexibility in the positioning and placement of the ventilation units to take advantage of the natural openings around the arms and neck, etc., to optimize airflow through the air distribution garment 304. In addition, utilization of multiple ventilation units have additional advantages over the single ventilation unit implementations in that the cost may be further reduced, and noise created by the air flow can also be reduced.

In the above regard, FIG. 13 shows a ventilating garment apparatus 340 in accordance with still another embodiment of the present invention, which is substantially similar to the embodiment previous described relative to FIG. 12, but wherein the ventilation units are received within pockets 380 provided on the front of the air distribution garment 350. FIGS. 14A and 14B show a ventilation unit 360 for use with the air distribution garment 350 of FIG. 12. As shown, the ventilation unit 360 is provided with a chassis 362 for securing the battery pack 364 to the blower unit 366 so that the ventilation unit 360 is modular. In addition, an extending lip 368 is provided which mates with a correspondingly shaped intake manifold (not shown) that directs the air into the spacer material of the air distribution garment 350.

FIG. 15 illustrates an enlarged, perspective view of the pocket 380 provided on the front of the air distribution garment 340 shown in FIG. 13, for receiving the ventilation unit 360 shown in FIGS. 14A and 14B. In the illustrated implementation, the pocket 380 is provided with a mesh wall 382 which allows the ventilation unit to draw air through the mesh wall 382. In addition, the pocket 380 is implemented with opening 384 that is sized to allow the extending lip 368 of the ventilation unit 360 to extend therethrough. FIG. 15 also illustrates a manifold 386 with an elastic cuff 388 that mates with the extending lip 368 of the ventilation unit 360, and also extends through the outer fabric of the air distribution garment 350 to provide the air to the spacer material therein (not shown).

FIG. 16 illustrates yet another embodiment of a ventilating garment apparatus 400 in accordance with the present invention. The ventilating garment apparatus 400 includes a spacer material 404 which is schematically shown through the outer fabric of the air distribution garment 402. As shown, a plurality of ventilation units 410 and 420 are provided in the illustrated embodiment, these ventilation units being positioned on each side of the air distribution garment 402, proximate to the location of the hips of the wearer. Such mounting facilitates use in conjunction with side opening body armor that is commercially available. Each of the ventilation units directs ambient air to the back, as well as the front, of the air distribution garment 402 in the manner similar to those described relative to the prior embodiments. In addition, shaped inserts 406 may also be provided to ensure proper distribution of the ambient air.

FIG. 17 illustrates a ventilation unit 430 in accordance with still another implementation of the present invention. The ventilation unit 430 is especially configured for use with the ventilating garment apparatus 400 shown in FIG. 16 and described above. In this regard, the ventilation unit 430 is adapted for side mounting to the air distribution garment 402, and correspondingly, is provided with a low height profile. The ventilation unit 430 includes a blower 432 and an internal battery 434 for powering the blower 432.

The low profile height of the ventilation unit 430 allows it to be received in the pocket 408 of the air distribution garment 402 shown in FIG. 16. The pocket 408 of the air distribution garment 402 may be provided with a mesh wall such as that described relative to FIG. 15, so as to allow the intake 436 of the ventilation unit 430 to draw in ambient air, and distribute the ambient air into the air distribution garment via the outlet 438. The conveniently accessible positioning of the ventilation unit 430 is further enhanced by providing the ventilation unit 430 with an external power source connector 440 for receiving a common electrical connector to mate with fielded military batteries for operating the blower 432 and/or recharging the internal battery 434.

FIG. 18 illustrates a ventilating garment apparatus 450 in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention. As can be seen, the ventilating garment apparatus 450 of FIG. 18 is substantially similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 12 in that the ventilation units 452 and 462 (schematically shown) are provided on the front of the air distribution garment 456. As can clearly be seen in the interior view of FIG. 18, the air distribution garment 456 includes openings 458 that allow the outlet of the blower to extend therethrough, and provide ambient air into the spacer material 468. As can also be clearly seen, the spacer material 468 of the illustrated embodiment is not provided with an air dam of any sort, but rather, is implemented to allows the air to flow in the general direction indicated.

FIG. 19 illustrates a portion of a ventilating garment apparatus 480 in accordance with still another embodiment of the present invention. In this regard, the ventilating garment apparatus 480 includes an air distribution garment 482 having a spacer material 486 within the interior, the spacer material and other hidden features being schematically illustrated through the fabric 488 of the air distribution garment 482. The illustrated embodiment differs from the previously described embodiments in that a first ventilation unit 490 is provided to push the ambient air through the spacer material 486, and a second ventilation unit 496 is provided to pull the ambient air through the spacer material 486. The ventilation units may be implemented in the manner described above relative to the previous embodiments. Of course, the schematic illustration shown in FIG. 19 illustrates only the blower portions of the ventilation units, and do not illustrate the batteries for driving the blower units, which are preferably provided in practice. In such a push/pull configuration, the direction of the airflow through the spacer material 486 can be better controlled. In this regard, a fabric plenum 498 may be provided in the manner discussed above relative to the embodiment of FIG. 11 to provide even drawing of the ambient air through the spacer material 486.

FIG. 20 illustrates a rear view of yet another embodiment of a ventilating garment apparatus 500 in accordance with the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment, the ventilating garment apparatus 500 includes air distribution garment 510 which is provided with a spacer material 516 in the manner described above relative to the prior embodiments. However, in contrast to the prior embodiments wherein the ventilation unit(s) were mounted on the air distribution garment, the present implementation allows the ventilation unit to be remotely mounted. In particular, in the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 20, the ventilation unit 530 may be supported on a waist belt 520 which is separate from the air distribution garment 510. In this regard, the ventilation unit 530 is preferably implemented to have low height profile and may be implemented like the ventilation unit 430 of FIG. 17.

The air distribution garment 510 may be provided with a Y-connector 514 that engages the ventilation unit 530 in the manner described below, and aids the distribution of the ambient air. In this regard, the ventilation unit 530 that is mounted to the waist belt 520 may further be provided with a duct 534 for conveying the outputted ambient air from the blower of the ventilation unit to the Y-connector 514 in the air distribution garment 510. In the embodiment shown, the ventilation unit 530 may be mounted in an opposite side of the belt 520 (as shown by ventilation unit 530′ and duct 534′), thereby providing wearer flexibility as to the location of the ventilation unit 530.

FIG. 21 illustrates a enlarged view of the ventilation unit 530 and the duct 534. In this regard, as can be clearly seen in FIG. 21, the duct 534 includes flexible joints 546 and 547 to allow small amount of articulation. In addition, the duct 534 is further provided with a connector 548 for engaging the Y-connector 514 provided in the air distribution garment 510. The connector 548 may be implemented in any appropriate manner, and may be provided with a quick disconnect clamp to allow rapid engagement and disengagement to the Y-connector 514. Moreover, by providing the flexible joints 546 and 547, some compliance in the duct 534 is allowed so that during active movement by the wearer where relative movement between the belt 520 and the air distribution garment 510 will likely occur, the sealed connection between the connector 548 and the Y-connector 514 can be maintained. Preferably, the duct 534, as well as the Y-connector 514, are implemented to be low profile so that they do not extend away from the wearer's body beyond an exterior body armor that may also be worn on top of the ventilating garment apparatus 500.

FIG. 22 illustrates another embodiment of a remotely mounted ventilation unit 570 which is connected to a Y-connector 580 (schematically shown) via a hose duct 574. As can be appreciated, the hose duct 574 is preferably made with corrugations that resist collapse or pinching of the hose duct 574 that can prevent air from being passed therethrough. As can be seen, the hose duct 574 is provided with connectors 576 and 578 at ends thereof for connection to the ventilation unit 570 and the Y-connector 580, respectively. The connectors 576 and 578 are preferably implemented to be hand tightened so that no tools are required, thereby allowing rapid engagement and disengagement of the ventilation unit 570 from the air distribution garment.

FIG. 23 shows the various components that may be used for implementing the connectors 576 and 578 of the hose duct 574. In particular, as shown in FIG. 23, the ventilation unit 570 is provided with a blower 571, battery 572 and a switch 573 for operating the ventilation unit 570. A reusable filter 575 is also provided in the manner previously described above. In the illustrated embodiment, the blower 571 is further provided with a threaded outlet 580. The connector 576 includes a clamp 584, a nut 586, and a retaining fitting 588, these components allowing the engagement of the connector 576 to the threaded outlet 580 of the ventilation unit 570. The connector 578 which attaches the hose duct 574 to the Y-connector 580 may be implemented in a substantially the same manner, or in an equivalent manner. Of course, the particular implementation of the connectors are provided as an example only, and alternative embodiments of the present invention may be implemented differently.

FIGS. 24A and 24B illustrate front and rear views, respectively, of a carrier 600 for the ventilation unit shown in FIG. 23. As can be seen, the carrier 600 is provided with straps 602 having snaps 604 for securely mounting the ventilation unit 570 in the mounting compartment 606 defined by the straps 602. As clearly shown in the rear view of FIG. 24B, the carrier 600 allows various securement of the carrier 600 to the wearer. In this regard, the carrier 600 is provided with extended loops 608 with snaps that allows the carrier to be mounted to a backpack or the like. In addition, the carrier 600 of the illustrated embodiment is provided belt loops 610 that allow the carrier to be secured to a belt 601 of the wearer. In addition, the carrier 600 is provided with a mounting pad 612 as shown in FIG. 24C. The mounting pad 612 is configured to conform to “modular outfit light load equipment” (MOLLE) to facilitate use with other standardized military gear, and include straps 613 that are closable via snaps 614. Thus, the carrier 600, as shown, allows various different mountings of the ventilation unit 570. Of course, in other implementations, the carrier may be implemented to secure just the blower or the batteries of the ventilation unit.

While the present invention has been described in detail with reference to the preferred embodiments thereof, it should be understood to those skilled in the art that various changes, substitutions and alterations can be made hereto without departing from the scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. For example, although a vest covering the torso has been illustrated in the above embodiments, it is understood that any other type of clothing, such as a jacket, coat, trousers or coveralls, may utilize the teachings and principles of the present invention.