Title:
Body temperature control system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In an embodiment, a system is provided. The system includes a heat exchanger including a thermal exchange block having a top surface and a bottom surface. The system further includes a first thermoelectric cooler abutting the top surface of the thermal exchanger block and a first heat sink thermally coupled to the first thermoelectric cooler. The system also includes a second thermoelectric cooler abutting the bottom surface of the thermal exchanger block and a second heat sink thermally coupled to the second thermoelectric cooler.



Inventors:
Creech, John (Colfax, CA, US)
Drees, Jason (Mill Valley, CA, US)
Koenig, Ryan (Los Alamitos, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/315622
Publication Date:
08/13/2009
Filing Date:
12/03/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/259.3, 62/426, 62/515, 165/46
International Classes:
F25B21/02; F25B39/02; F25D17/06; F25D23/00; F28F7/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
PETTITT, JOHN F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SVPC (Belmont, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A system, comprising: A heat exchanger including a thermoelectric cooler; A pump coupled to the heat exchanger; And A personal garment, the personal garment including fluid tubing, the fluid tubing coupled to the heat exchanger.

2. The system of claim 1, further comprising: A reservoir coupled to the heat exchanger.

3. The system of claim 1, further comprising: A controller coupled to the heat exchanger.

4. The system of claim 3, further comprising: A power supply coupled to the controller.

5. The system of claim 3, wherein: The controller is further coupled to the pump.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein: The heat exchanger includes: A thermal exchange block having a top surface; A first thermoelectric cooler abutting the top surface of the thermal exchanger block; and A first heat sink thermally coupled to the first thermoelectric cooler.

7. The system of claim 6, further comprising: A first fan thermally coupled to the first heat sink.

8. The system of claim 6, wherein: The thermal exchange block further includes a bottom surface; And further comprising: A second thermoelectric cooler abutting the bottom surface of the thermal exchange block; And A second heat sink thermally coupled to the second thermoelectric cooler.

9. The system of claim 8, further comprising: A second fan thermally coupled to the second heat sink.

10. The system of claim 6, wherein: The thermal exchange block includes an internal fluid channel having an inlet and an outlet, the thermal fluid channel disposed adjacent to the first thermoelectric cooler, the inlet and the outlet coupled to the pump and the fluid tubing of the personal garment.

11. The system of claim 5, further comprising: A user interface coupled to the controller.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein: The controller alters operation of the heat exchanger responsive to signals from the user interface.

13. The system of claim 12, wherein: The system is mounted in an automobile, the power supply is a power supply of the automobile.

14. The system of claim 12, wherein: The system is portable.

15. The system of claim 14, wherein: The power supply is a rechargeable power supply.

16. The system of claim 14, wherein: The power supply receives power from a utility power grid.

17. The system of claim 1, wherein: The personal garment is a shirt.

18. The system of claim 1, wherein: The personal garment is a body suit.

19. A system, comprising: A heat exchanger including a thermal exchange block having a top surface and a bottom surface, a first thermoelectric cooler abutting the top surface of the thermal exchanger block and a first heat sink thermally coupled to the first thermoelectric cooler, a second thermoelectric cooler abutting the bottom surface of the thermal exchanger block and a second heat sink thermally coupled to the second thermoelectric cooler; A pump coupled to the heat exchanger in fluid communication; A controller coupled to the heat exchanger and the pump; And A personal fabric component, the personal fabric component including fluid tubing, the fluid tubing coupled to the heat exchanger in fluid communication.

20. A system, comprising: A heat exchanger including a thermal exchange block having a top surface, a first thermoelectric cooler abutting the top surface of the thermal exchanger block and a first heat sink thermally coupled to the first thermoelectric cooler; A pump coupled to the heat exchanger; A controller coupled to the heat exchanger; And A personal fabric component, the personal fabric component including fluid tubing, the fluid tubing coupled to the heat exchanger.

21. 21-24. (canceled)

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/992,094, filed on Dec. 3, 2007, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. This application is also related to Patent Cooperation Treaty Application No. ______, filed with the United States Receiving Office on Dec. 3, 2008, and entitled “Body Temperature Control System” and having attorney docket No. N986.P001.WO01 which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

Temperature control for human beings can be a very valuable benefit. While the human body self-regulates body temperature as much as possible, we tend to expose our bodies to situations where self-regulation becomes difficult or impossible. In such situations, performance of tasks becomes less efficient, judgment can be impaired, and other adverse effects manifest. Thus, it may be valuable to devise a system which can allow a person to avoid the worst effects of extreme temperatures by assisting in regulation of body temperature.

Regulation of temperature in the torso can provide much benefit to a person experiencing temperature extremes. One example of a situation that can cause temperature extremes is a race (automobile race) set in an extreme temperature environment. Past attempts to provide a system for controlling body temperature have focused on overheating and attempts to cool a driver. FIG. 1 illustrates such a system, available from F.A.S.T. of Arlington Heights, Ill.

In particular, FIG. 1 illustrates a cool shirt system. System 100 includes a shirt 110, cooling mechanism 120, connecting hose 130 and shirt tubing 140. Cooling mechanism 120 operates by using ice (solid water) to cool liquid water. Cooling mechanism 120 is connected to connecting hoses 130, which in turn are connected to shirt tubing 140. Water is pumped through connecting hoses 130 and shirt tubing 140 from cooling mechanism 120 using a pump in cooling mechanism 120 (not shown). The ice in cooling mechanism 120 cools the water, which then circulates to the cool shirt 110, removing heat from a user of the shirt 110. Also shown is a control 145 which allows a user to control how much water flows through the shirt 110, thus allowing some modulation of the cooling effect. Other, similar systems are available from Shafer Enterprises of Stockbridge, Ga., for example.

This system allows for basic cooling under hot conditions. However, it suffers from some potential drawbacks. For example, a supply of ice is required to provide cooling—if no ice is available the system does not function. Additionally, in situations where multiple drivers use the system, conservation of ice to allow for cooling of later racers can frustrate teammates. Moreover, the system allows relatively minimal temperature control, providing for cooling which can only be varied somewhat based on flow rates. Also, the use of ice means that the system is unlikely to be useful for warming a person in cold situations. Thus, it may be advantageous to provide a system which can provide more flexible temperature control.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention is illustrated by way of example in the accompanying drawings. The drawings should be understood as illustrative rather than limiting.

FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of a cool shirt system.

FIG. 2 illustrates an embodiment of a body temperature control system.

FIG. 3 illustrates an embodiment of a heat exchanger usable in a body temperature control system.

FIG. 4 (collectively FIGS. 4A, 4B and 4C) illustrates an embodiment of a thermal exchange block such as may be used in a heat exchanger.

FIG. 5 illustrates installation of an embodiment of a body temperature control system in a car.

FIG. 6 illustrates an embodiment of a process of assembly of a body temperature control system.

FIG. 7 illustrates an embodiment of a process of installation of a body temperature control system.

FIG. 8 illustrates an embodiment of a fluid transport loop of a body temperature control system.

FIG. 9 illustrates an embodiment of a process of operation of a body temperature control system.

FIG. 10 illustrates an embodiment of a controller which may be used in an embodiment of a body temperature control system installed in vehicle.

FIG. 11 illustrates another embodiment of a controller which may be used in an embodiment of a body temperature control system.

The drawings should be understood as illustrative rather than limiting.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A system, method and apparatus is provided for a body temperature control system. In one embodiment, the body temperature control system uses a pump to move a fluid through two heat exchangers which either a) move heat from a user's body to the heat exchanger, thereby causing the user to feel cooler or b) move heat from the heat exchanger to the user's body, thereby causing the user to feel warmer. The specific embodiments described in this document represent example embodiments of the present invention, and are illustrative in nature rather than restrictive.

In an embodiment, a system is provided. The system includes a heat exchanger including a thermoelectric cooler. The system also includes a pump coupled to the heat exchanger. The system further includes a personal garment. The personal garment includes fluid tubing. The fluid tubing is coupled to the heat exchanger.

The system may further include a reservoir coupled to the heat exchanger. The system may also include a controller coupled to the heat exchanger. The system may further include a power supply coupled to the controller. The controller may further be coupled to the pump.

In an embodiment, the heat exchanger includes a thermal exchange block having a top surface and a first thermoelectric cooler abutting the top surface of the thermal exchanger block. The heat exchanger further includes a first heat sink thermally coupled to the first thermoelectric cooler. The system may further include a first fan thermally coupled to the first heat sink. In another embodiment, the heat exchanger may be further characterized by the thermal exchange block further including a bottom surface and the heat exchanger further including a second thermoelectric cooler abutting the bottom surface of the thermal exchange block and a second heat sink thermally coupled to the second thermoelectric cooler. Likewise, the embodiment may further include a second fan thermally coupled to the second heat sink.

In some embodiments, the thermal exchange block includes an internal fluid channel having an inlet and an outlet. The thermal fluid channel is disposed adjacent to the first thermoelectric cooler. The inlet and the outlet are coupled to the pump and the fluid tubing of the personal garment.

In some embodiments, the system further includes a user interface coupled to the controller. In some embodiments, the controller alters operation of the heat exchanger responsive to signals from the user interface. In some embodiments, the system is mounted in an automobile and the power supply is a power supply of the automobile. In some embodiments, the system is portable. Moreover, in some embodiments, the power supply is a rechargeable power supply. Alternatively, in some embodiments, the power supply receives power from a utility power grid. Additionally, in some embodiments, the personal garment is a shirt, whereas in other embodiments the personal garment is a body suit.

In another embodiment, a system is provided. The system includes a heat exchanger including a thermal exchange block having a top surface and a bottom surface. The system further includes a first thermoelectric cooler abutting the top surface of the thermal exchanger block and a first heat sink thermally coupled to the first thermoelectric cooler. The system also includes a second thermoelectric cooler abutting the bottom surface of the thermal exchanger block and a second heat sink thermally coupled to the second thermoelectric cooler.

The system also includes a pump coupled to the heat exchanger in fluid communication therewith. The system further includes a controller coupled to the heat exchanger and the pump. The system also includes a personal fabric component including fluid tubing. The fluid tubing of the personal fabric component is coupled to the heat exchanger in fluid communication therewith.

In yet another embodiment, a system is provided. The system includes a heat exchanger including a thermal exchange block having a top surface. The heat exchanger further includes a first thermoelectric cooler abutting the top surface of the thermal exchanger block and a first heat sink thermally coupled to the first thermoelectric cooler. The system further includes a pump coupled to the heat exchanger. The system also includes a controller coupled to the heat exchanger. The system further includes a personal fabric component. The personal fabric component includes fluid tubing and the fluid tubing is coupled to the heat exchanger. In some embodiments, the personal fabric component is a shirt. In other embodiments, the personal fabric component is a blanket.

In still another embodiment, a method is provided. The method includes installing a gasket on a thermal exchange block. The thermal exchange block includes an internal fluid transport channel having an inlet and an outlet. The method further includes securely connecting a thermoelectric cooler to the thermal exchange block in contact with the gasket. The method also includes fastening a heat sink to the thermoelectric cooler in a position opposite the thermal exchange block. The method further includes connecting a first tube to the inlet of the fluid transport channel and connecting the first tube to a fluid tube of a personal garment. The method also includes connecting a second tube to the fluid tube of the personal garment and connecting the second tube to a pump. The method further includes connecting a third tube to the pump and connecting the third tube to the outlet of the fluid transport channel.

In another embodiment, a method is presented. The method includes flowing fluid through a fluid loop including a heat exchanger, a personal garment and a pump. The method also includes adjusting a temperature of the fluid at the heat exchanger through use of a thermoelectric cooler. The method further includes receiving control signals from a user interface at a controller. The method also includes controlling the heat exchanger through signals from the controller responsive to the signals from the user interface.

In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art that the invention can be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, structures and devices are shown in block diagram form in order to avoid obscuring the invention.

Reference in the specification to “one embodiment” or “an embodiment” means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the invention. The appearances of the phrase “in one embodiment” in various places in the specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment, nor are separate or alternative embodiments mutually exclusive of other embodiments. Features and aspects of various embodiments may be integrated into other embodiments, and embodiments illustrated in this document may be implemented without all of the features or aspects illustrated or described.

Embodiments may solve many of the problems identified above and provide a system and components that meet many, if not all, of the identified needs. Further, the system may present all of these components in a single unified platform, or as a set of separate components. In an embodiment, five major components are used. These components include a heat exchange garment, a heat exchanger, a pump, a reservoir, and a controller. In one embodiment, the system components are described as follows:

The heat exchange garment is an item to be worn by, or placed very near the user which allows the system fluid to pass near the user's skin. The heat exchange garment allows for thermal transference between the user and the system. It can be used in either heating or cooling modes and provides a sealed (non-vented) portion of the fluid transportation path.

The heat exchanger warms or cools the system fluid depending on the user's preference. The warming and cooling is done via Peltier (thermoelectric) technology. Excess heat is dissipated to the atmosphere through an outside face of a Peltier device and may involve an additional heat sink. The heat sink may see increased efficiency resulting from the use of exhaust fans drawing atmospheric air over the heat sink. The heat exchanger is a sealed (non-vented) portion of the fluid transport path as well. The operation of the heat exchanger (heating or cooling of the system fluid) is determined by the flow of current through the Peltier device(s) attached to a thermal exchange block. By reversing the current polarity, the Peltier device(s) switch thermal flow direction allowing for heating or cooling.

One of the following two conditions obtains in such a situation. Cooling mode—heat is pumped from the fluid as it passes through the thermal exchange block, thereby cooling the system fluid and heating the ‘outside’ of the Peltier device(s). The Peltier device(s) dissipate heat to the atmosphere via the heat-sink and fan arrangement. Heating mode—heat is pumped into the fluid as it passes through the thermal exchange block, thereby warming the system fluid. This cools the ‘outside’ of the Peltier device(s) which are warmed by the atmosphere via the heat-sink and fan arrangement, or can be warmed by an optional heater in some embodiments.

The pump moves the system fluid through the heat exchanger, heat exchange garment and the reservoir. The reservoir potentially serves three functions in the system, though its use is not necessarily required for the system to operate properly. First, the reservoir can be used to fill or empty the system of fluid. For example, in the case of connecting an un-filled heat exchange garment to the system, the reservoir may provide fluid to fill the garment. Second, the reservoir allows the venting of gas bubbles in the system fluid to the atmosphere. Third, the reservoir is a stabilizing element preventing immediate and drastic changes in system fluid temperatures.

The Controller is an electrical (or electromechanical) device which allows the user to set the desired level of relative heating or cooling, and adjusts the various electrical outputs to drive the other components (e.g. appropriate voltage delivery to the pump and heat exchange block). The controller is operated via controls located on the controller device or via a user control panel which is mounted in any desirable position (e.g. a vehicle dash board, user wrist, hospital bed control panel, tank turret control panel, or other application-dependent position). The controller receives power input from a power source (e.g. a vehicle alternator, battery, fuel cell, solar cell, generator or other AC or DC voltage source).

Reference to the embodiment of FIG. 2, which provides an embodiment of a body temperature control system, may further illustrate the system. As illustrated, system 200 of FIG. 2 includes a reservoir 220, pump 225, heat exchanger 230, and heat exchange garment 250 arranged in a fluid loop 210. Thermometers 235 and 245 are provided to monitor temperature of the fluid at entry and exit points of the heat exchanger 230. Each component of the loop 210 is coupled to the next component of the loop 210 using sealed tubing or other fluid carrying components. As illustrated, the reservoir 220 is vented, allowing for release of gas bubbles and similar pressure release.

Controller 260 is illustrated coupled to heat exchanger 230, providing control signals to heat exchanger 230. Controller 260 is also coupled to power source 270, and provides power to heat exchanger 230, user controls 280, and potentially to pump 225 (connection not shown). Alternately, pump 225 may be coupled directly to power source 270. User controls 280 provide a user interface for system 200, allowing user adjustment of the temperature effect delivered by the garment 250. Also, thermometers 235 and 245 may be coupled to controller 260 to provide data to controller 260 and allow for feedback control of heat exchanger 230 and/or pump 225, for example. Note that the fluid used may be water or may be a different fluid useful for transport of heat. If water is used, saline or a disinfectant of some form may be added to avoid organic contamination in the system.

Further reference to FIG. 3 and the illustrated embodiment of a heat exchanger may provide additional insight into the system. Heat exchanger 300 is shown as a symmetrical design in block diagram form. Thermal exchange block 340 is provided as a fluid transport block which may be heated or cooled to heat or cool the transported fluid. Peltier thermal transducer(s) 330 (a and b) are provided in contact with thermal exchange block 340 to either transfer heat into or out of the thermal exchange block 340, depending on the bias voltage of the transducer 330. Heat sink(s) 320 (a and b) are described as finned, but can take various forms, and provide a radiating or absorbing surface attached to the Peltier transducer(s) 330. Fan(s) 310 (a and b) are provided to increase air flow over heat sink(s) 320, potentially increasing heat exchange efficiency, and are coupled to or in communication with heat sink(s) 320.

Heat exchanger 300 may be built as a single-ended system or a double-ended system (as shown). The single-ended system may potentially be more compact, whereas the double-ended system shown may potentially be more efficient. The various components of heat exchanger 300 may be controlled separately, such as controlling electrical bias of the Peltier thermal transducers 330 with a first signal (or set of signals) and controlling operations of fans 310 with a second signal (or set of signals).

The heat exchanger 300 may be further understood with reference to an embodiment of a thermal exchange block as illustrated in FIG. 4. Note that FIG. 4A illustrates a top view, FIG. 4B illustrates a front view, and FIG. 4C illustrates a side view. The back view (not illustrated) is a solid block much like the side view. The bottom view (and bottom side or surface) may be implemented as an essentially identical form to that of the top side (with an open channel) for use in double-ended assemblies, or in the form of a solid surface without access to the channel for use in single-ended assemblies.

Thermal exchange block 400 includes the block 410, fluid transport channel 440, barbs 430, recess 420, and gaskets (not shown). Block 410 has embodied therein fluid channel 440, which allows for transport of fluid through block 410 along a surface or surfaces (e.g. a top surface and a bottom surface) which may be in contact with Peltier thermal transducers, for example. Alternatively, the fluid channel 440 may be open on one or both surfaces, allowing direct contact between the fluid of the fluid channel 440 and an associated Peltier device. Recesses 420 are provided on the surfaces where contact with the transducers is desired to allow for insertion of gaskets or O-rings, for example, to facilitate such contact. Barbs 430 are provided at an inlet and outlet of fluid channel 440, to allow for interface with the rest of a fluid transport system, such as through connection to a set of hoses, for example. Note that in some embodiments, the system may also be fabricated with a barrier between the channel 440 and components exterior to the block 410, either as a result of not opening the top and/or bottom surfaces, or as a result of attaching plates to cover the top and/or bottom surfaces.

The overall system (body temperature control system) may be installed in a car for racing purposes, for example. Such an installation is illustrated in FIG. 5. System 500 represents a system including a body temperature control system and a car frame. Other installations may also be useful, and various different configurations may be used.

As illustrated, frame 540 may be a cage installed in a race car, or may represent the available mounting surfaces in a car. Shirt 510 is provided and may be worn by a driver. It is coupled to the heat exchange module 520, which is mounted on frame 540, along with reservoir 530. Reservoir 530 is an optional part of the system, which is coupled in the illustration to heat exchange module 520. Not shown is a pump, which may be integrated with heat exchange module 520. Also shown is a controller 550. Controller 550 is mounted to frame 540. In the illustrated embodiment, controller 550 is mounted in a location convenient for a driver, and includes a user interface integrated therein. In other embodiments, the controller may be mounted elsewhere and coupled to a user interface mounted conveniently for a driver. Controller 550 is coupled to heat exchange module 520 and controls heat exchange module 520 at least partially responsive to commands from a driver. Controller 550 may also regulate operation of heat exchange module 520 to maintain safe operation (e.g. within preset temperature limits).

Assembly of the body temperature control system, in one embodiment, includes building the heat exchanger block, building the controller (and its sub-system control panel), completing the fluid transport path between the components and connecting the electrical wiring for the system. In other embodiments, components such as the heat exchanger block and controller can be provided in prepared form.

Building the heat exchanger may be accomplished by following the following process, for each side of the heat exchanger. Reference to FIG. 6 may further illustrate this process. Process 600 begins with milling, cutting, drilling, and tapping a metal block to form the fluid transport channels and inlet/outlet to form the thermal exchange block at module 610. In some embodiments, this block may be pre-made. Next, at module 620, install O-Rings to seal the thermal exchange block to a Peltier device. Following that, at module 630, install the Peltier device. Next, install Peltier device clamping plate(s) with a heat transference compound, or otherwise affix the Peltier device to the thermal exchange block at module 640. Note that this assumes contact between the Peltier devices and the fluid of the thermal exchange block. With no contact with the fluid, gaskets and the like may not be necessary. Thereafter, at module 650, install a heat sink and at module 660, install a cooling fan. The process has been described with respect to assembly of a single-ended heat exchanger, or a single side of a double-ended heat exchanger. One may also assemble both sides of a double-ended heat exchanger as illustrated in FIG. 6.

The controller can also be assembled from typical components. The controller may include a processor, for example, or may be made using analog electrical components or mechanical components, for example. To create an appropriate controller, one establishes input voltage based on a source voltage for the application (e.g. a 12V car battery). One then creates or integrates a voltage regulation circuit for the heat exchanger block output(s) including control signals for Peltier device(s) and exhaust fan(s). One also includes or creates a comparator circuit. The comparator circuit may accept user input via a control panel and compare to Peltier device(s) output (e.g. warmer or cooler and OFF setting). This may include feedback indication (LED's) for the user. Moreover, the output signals may also come from thermometers provided in the device, for example. One also installs connectors for the various device and control panel leads, thereby connecting or coupling to a user interface and to the heat exchanger (and pump if separate).

The fluid reservoir includes a vented vessel containing sufficient capacity of fluid to replenish the fluid transport system in the event that an ‘empty’ heat exchange garment is connected and used in one embodiment. The fluid reservoir is installed through use of input and output connections leading to the heat exchange garment and fluid transport pump in one embodiment. Similarly, the heat exchange garment is assembled using a suitable article of clothing or surface which will place the system fluid within proximity of the user's body or specific body part to be warmed or cooled. The fluid transport system is then connected, by connecting the various components of the fluid transport system in a loop. One order may be: Reservoir->Pump->Heat Exchanger->Heat Exchange Garment->Reservoir. Assembly of the system also includes connecting the control system. This includes using suitable wiring and connectors to make the following connections in one embodiment: 1) Power Source->Controller, 2) Controller->Control Panel(s), 3) Controller->Exhaust Fan(s), 4) Controller->Peltier Device(s) and 5) Controller->Pump(s). One may further understand such a process by reference to FIG. 7.

FIG. 7 illustrates an embodiment of a process for assembling a system such as the body temperature control systems of various embodiments. Process 700 initiates with provision of a heat exchange component such as a heat exchange or thermal exchange block and associated components at module 710. At module 720, the heat exchange component is mounted or installed in the area where it is to operate. At module 730, a controller is connected or coupled to the heat exchange component, such as through electrical wiring. At module 740, a fluid transport system is coupled to the heat exchange component. This may involve connecting tubing for such a system to the heat exchange component and to other fluid transport components such as a personal garment with fluid tubing and a reservoir, for example. At module 750, a user control interface is connected or coupled to the controller, such as through electrical wiring or radio coupling. At module 760, a power source is coupled to the controller, such as through wiring to a battery or alternator of a vehicle or plugging into an electrical outlet, for example.

FIG. 8 illustrates a completed fluid transport loop in such embodiments. Loop 800 provides for transport of fluid between a heat exchanger 820 and a heat exchange garment 830. Pump 810 assists transfer of the fluid. In some embodiments, the loop is completed with pump 810, exchanger 820 and garment 830. Other embodiments also include reservoir 840 in the loop 800.

Using the system may be understood with reference to FIG. 9. After the body temperature control system is assembled and installed, the user can then don the heat exchange garment and use the control panel to feel warmer or cooler. When the user selects a control position to make them cooler, the controller sends an appropriate voltage and polarity to the pump(s), exhaust fan(s), Peltier device(s), and control indicators(s) which cause the heat exchanger to make the system fluid cooler. As the fluid passes through the heat exchange garment(s), the wearer(s) feels cooler. Alternatively, when the user selects a control position to make them warmer, the controller sends an appropriate voltage and polarity to the pump(s), exhaust fan(s), Peltier device(s), and control indicators(s) which cause the heat exchanger to make the system fluid warmer. As the fluid passes through the heat exchange garment(s), the wearer(s) feel warmer.

Referring more specifically to FIG. 9, process 900 initiates at module 910 with initiation of fluid flow. At module 920, a user command is received. At module 930, a determination is made as to whether to cool or heat. If to cool, cooling settings are set or adjusted at module 940. If to heat, heating settings are adjusted at module 950. At module 960, a determination is made as to whether a shutdown command was received. If so, at module 970 the fluid flow and power is shut down, and if not, the process returns to module 920 to await a user command.

Further reference to embodiments of a controller which may be used with various embodiments of the systems may illustrate additional details. FIG. 10 illustrates an embodiment of a controller which may be used in an embodiment of a body temperature control system installed in vehicle. System 1000 provides a controller which may be mounted in a vehicle and deliver power based on an associated vehicle power source. Terminals 1005 provide for reception of power from a power supply, such as a car battery or alternator. As illustrated, a 13.8 V potential difference is expected for an embodiment. Other embodiments may be used with different forms of power, such as other DC power sources or AC power sources, for example.

Switch 1010 provides a power switch coupled to a power supply terminal 1005 in the form of a single pole, single throw switch in one embodiment. Such a switch may simply supply or cut-off power to the system. Switches 1015 and 1020 are coupled between a TEC array 1030 and the power terminals 1005. TEC array 1030 represents a set of thermoelectric coolers which are described above, such as the TEC devices 330 of FIG. 3. Switches 1015 and 1020 operate collectively to supply power to TEC array 1030 and to bias TEC array 1030 for either cooling or heating. Thus, a user may have access to controls coupled to switches 1010, 1015 and 1020 to control the system (or the user may have direct access to switches 1010, 1015 and 1020).

Power is also supplied to other components. For example, pump 1040 is coupled through controller 1000 to the power terminals 1005 to receive power. Similarly, fans 1050 are coupled through controller 1000 to receive power from terminals 1005. Such a design requires that the pump 1040 and fans 1050 be adapted to receive the power available at terminals 1005. However, voltage regulators and other components can be included as needed in some embodiments. Note that pump 1040 may correspond to pump 225 of FIG. 2, for example. Similarly, fans 1050 may correspond to fans 310 of FIG. 3, for example.

FIG. 11 illustrates another embodiment of a controller which may be used in an embodiment of a body temperature control system. Controller 1100 includes a user interface 1110, thermal regulation module 1120, pump control module 1130, fan or ventilation control 1140 and power interface 1150. User interface 1110 may be coupled to an external user interface component or may be part of a user interface presented to a user. Thermal regulation module 1120 may be a circuit or other module which supplies power to TEC components and/or regulates the TEC components and is coupled thereto. This may include receipt of input from thermometers as well as output of signals to a TEC component or a set or plurality of TEC components, for example. This may also include regulation of the TEC components to maintain temperatures within safety guidelines, for example.

Pump control module 1130 may supply power to and/or regulate operation of a pump or pumps coupled thereto. Fan control module 1140 may likewise supply power and/or regulate operation of a fan or fans coupled thereto. Power interface module 1150 may receive power from a power source such as a battery or alternator of a car, or other power source such as a DC or AC electrical source. Power interface 1150 may regulate such power or simply pass it to components such as thermal regulator 1120, pump controller 1130 and fan controller 1140, for example.

Note that the control systems can be enhanced to include features which may be useful in various environments. For example, a user interface may be included with varying types of user controls and signals (e.g. LEDs, LCD screen, etc.) Additionally, the power interface of a controller may have a low battery detection circuit or power fault detection circuit. Such a circuit can be used to switch to a backup power supply or to shutdown the system. Likewise, the controller can include detection circuitry which can detect such conditions as low fluid levels, out of bounds temperatures, faults in the system generally (e.g. a pump failure) and other conditions. Moreover, temperature regulation and user interface components can be used to allow sophisticated temperature settings, such as a set temperature or a gradient to a set point, for example. Likewise, the system (e.g. the controller) can detect such conditions as power startup or ignition in a vehicle, and shut off to allow for cranking of an engine for example.

The entire system as described can be implemented in various different embodiments. An embodiment has been tested under a variety of conditions. It has performed well in keeping a driver cool in an automobile race under hot conditions. Likewise, it has performed well in keeping a driver warm in an automobile race under cold conditions.

One skilled in the art will appreciate that although specific examples and embodiments of the system and methods have been described for purposes of illustration, various modifications can be made without deviating from the present invention. For example, embodiments of the present invention may be applied to many different types of applications, such as vehicles, personal use, stationary use, temporary or permanent installations, or other environments. Moreover, features of one embodiment may be incorporated into other embodiments, even where those features are not described together in a single embodiment within the present document.