Title:
Wearable Vascular System for Facilitating Evaporative Cooling of an Individual
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A water-cooling apparatus is disclosed that significantly improves the comfort of an individual by reducing overheating, perspiration, dehydration, odors, and electrolyte loss. A vascular distribution system attachable either directly to the individual or to a shirt or other garment worn by the individual delivers water that cools the individual by evaporation. A source of water can be included, and water can be pumped and/or squeezed from the source, pushed by air pressure, or drawn through the vascular system by gravity or capillary action. A chiller can cool the water before it is delivered, and the vascular system and/or water source can be in thermal contact with the individual. A connecting port can be included to allow the water source to be temporarily connected, and a drinking port can be included to allow the individual to drink the water and/or force water into the vascular system by blowing into the port.



Inventors:
Goldmann, Richard (Poughkeepsie, NY, US)
Weinzimmer, Russ (Milford, NH, US)
Burum, Douglas P. (Acton, MA, US)
Application Number:
12/176888
Publication Date:
01/28/2010
Filing Date:
07/21/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F28D15/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ANNIS, KHALED
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Russ Weinzimmer (Milford, NH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for cooling an individual, the apparatus comprising: a vascular water distribution system cooperative with at least a portion of the body of the individual, the vascular water distribution system being connectable to a source of water; and the vascular water distribution system being able to distribute water over a portion of the body of the individual, thereby enabling evaporative cooling of the portion of the body of the individual.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vascular water distribution system includes structural elements that maintain the configuration of the vascular water distribution system when the vascular water distribution system is in use.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vascular water distribution system is attachable to the individual.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vascular water distribution system is attachable to the individual using at least one of: straps; ties; belts; and elastic bands.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vascular water distribution system is attachable to a garment.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the vascular water distribution system is attachable to the garment using at least one of: hook-and-loop attachment fabric; glue; tie strips; magnetic attachment; buttons; hooks; pins; and snaps.

7. The garment of claim 1, wherein water flows through the vascular water distribution due to at least one of: pressure applied to the water; capillary action; and gravity.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vascular water distribution system is in thermal contact with the individual, thereby allowing water flowing through the vascular water distribution system to absorb heat from the individual.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vascular water distribution system further comprises a connecting port that is temporarily connectable to a source of water.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a drinking port that is attachable to the source of water and can be used by the individual to drink from the source of water.

11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein water can be pushed into the vascular water distribution system by blowing into the drinking port.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vascular water distribution system is attachable to the fabric of at least one of a shirt, shorts, and a hat.

13. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a source of water connectable to the vascular water distribution system.

14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the source of water includes a water chiller that is able to cool the water before it is distributed by the vascular water distribution system.

15. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the source of water includes a pump operable by the individual so as to pump water into the vascular water distribution system.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the pump is operated automatically when the body of the individual undergoes movement that is at least one of: breathing; walking; moving of arms; moving of legs; and other body movements.

17. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the source of water includes an air space cooperative with water contained in the source of water, the air space being fillable with compressed air so as to apply pressure to the water, thereby pushing the water into the vascular water distribution system.

18. The garment of claim 17, wherein the air space is separated from the water in the source of water by a flexible barrier that is able to apply pressure to the water while ensuring that only water will be delivered by the source of water to the vascular water distribution system.

19. The garment of claim 18, wherein the source of water includes a pump operable by the individual so as to compress the air in the air space.

20. The garment of claim 19, wherein the pump is operated automatically when the body of the individual undergoes movement that is at least one of: breathing; walking; moving of arms; moving of legs; and other body movements.

21. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the source of water includes a water container that can be compressed by the individual so as to push water into the vascular water distribution system.

22. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein at least some of the water supplied by the source of water is maintained in thermal contact with the individual before it is delivered to the vascular water distribution system.

23. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vascular water distribution system distributes water unevenly over the portion of the body of the individual.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention generally relates to apparatus for cooling individuals, and more specifically to apparatus for cooling individuals with water.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Exercise is generally known to have many benefits for individuals of all ages. These benefits include improved cardiovascular health, reduced blood pressure, prevention of bone and muscle loss, maintenance of a healthy weight, improved psychological heath, and many others. However, exercise is generally accompanied by a certain degree of discomfort, including overheating, sweating, etc, and this leads to a significant reduction in the intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise undertaken by many individuals, thereby reducing the health benefits that can be derived from recreational and conditioning exercise. Excess heating during exercise can also reduce peak athletic performance, because the performance of a muscle deteriorates when the muscle is overheated.

Overheating of an individual can also occur during leisure activities due to exposure to sunlight and other warm weather conditions. Such overheating can reduce the comfort of these activities and shorten the amount of time that they can be enjoyed. In addition, individuals can become overheated while performing work in a hot environment, either indoors or outdoors, thereby decreasing their productivity and comfort, and possibly even endangering their health.

The body's primary method of cooling when overheated is perspiration. Perspiration is highly effective because water has a high heat capacity and a high heat of vaporization, and so the evaporation of perspiration is an efficient mechanism for eliminating unwanted heat. However, there are several major disadvantages to perspiration, including dehydration, loss of electrolytes, and unwanted odors.

There are many approaches known for helping to keep an exercising or working individual cool, thereby reducing perspiration and discomfort. For example, if the exercise takes place indoors, the ambient air in the exercise environment can be maintained at a low temperature by an air conditioning system. However, cooling by this method is limited because air has a low heat capacity and does not make good thermal contact with the body. Fans and humidifiers can be used to increase heat transfer from the body of an exerciser to the air, but these approaches still cannot provide sufficient cooling in all cases. When exercise occurs outdoors, these approaches are largely unavailable.

For similar reasons, there are few satisfactory approaches known for cooling an individual during an outdoor work or leisure activity when sunlight and/or warm weather lead to overheating of the individual. Cool air can be directed onto the individual, but the low heat capacity of cool air limits its effectiveness.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An apparatus for cooling an individual is claimed that distributes water onto the individual using a vascular water distribution system so as to efficiently cool the individual by evaporation of the water while the individual is exercising or taking part in other activities that could lead to overheating. The apparatus provides efficient cooling of the individual, thereby reducing perspiration and associated dehydration, loss of electrolytes, odors, and discomfort.

The apparatus includes a vascular water distribution system cooperative with at least a portion of the body of the individual, the vascular water distribution system being connectable to a source of water and being able to distribute water over a portion of the body of the individual, thereby enabling evaporative cooling of the portion of the body of the individual.

In preferred embodiments the vascular water distribution system includes structural elements that maintain the configuration of the vascular water distribution system when the vascular water distribution system is in use.

In some preferred embodiments the vascular water distribution system is attachable to the individual, and in some of these embodiments the vascular water distribution system is attachable to the individual using straps, ties, belts, and/or elastic bands.

In certain preferred embodiments the vascular water distribution system is attachable to a garment. And in some of these embodiments the vascular water distribution system is attachable to the garment using hook-and-loop attachment fabric, glue, tie strips, magnetic attachment, buttons, hooks, pins, and/or snaps.

In some embodiments water flows through the vascular water distribution system due to pressurizing the water, due to gravity, and/or due to capillary action.

In various preferred embodiments the vascular water distribution system is in thermal contact with the individual, thereby allowing water flowing through the vascular water distribution system to absorb heat from the individual.

In preferred embodiments the vascular water distribution system includes a connecting port that is temporarily connectable to a source of water. And in other preferred embodiments the apparatus includes a drinking port that is attachable to the source of water and can be used by the individual to drink from the source of water and/or t push water into the vascular water distribution system by blowing into the drinking port.

In certain preferred embodiments the vascular water distribution system is attachable to the fabric of a shirt, shorts, and/or a hat.

In preferred embodiments the apparatus includes a source of water connectable to the vascular water distribution system. In some of these embodiments the source of water includes a water chiller that is able to cool the water before it is distributed by the vascular water distribution system. In other of these embodiments the source of water includes a pump operable by the individual so as to pump water into the vascular water distribution system. And in some of these embodiments the pump is operated automatically when the body of the individual undergoes movement such as breathing, walking, moving of arms, and moving of legs.

In yet other preferred embodiments in which the apparatus includes a source of water connectable to the vascular water distribution system, the source of water includes an air space cooperative with water contained in the source of water, the air space being fillable with compressed air so as to apply pressure to the water, thereby pushing the water into the vascular water distribution system. In some of these embodiments the air space is separated from the water in the source of water by a flexible barrier that is able to apply pressure to the water while ensuring that only water will be delivered by the source of water to the vascular water distribution system. In other of these embodiments the source of water includes a pump operable by the individual so as to compress the air in the air space. And in some of these embodiments the pump is operated automatically when the body of the individual undergoes movements such as breathing, walking, moving of arms, and moving of legs.

In certain preferred embodiments the source of water includes a water container that can be compressed by the individual so as to push water into the vascular water distribution system. In other preferred embodiments at least some of the water supplied by the source of water is maintained in thermal contact with the individual before it is delivered to the vascular water distribution system. And in still other preferred embodiments the vascular water distribution system distributes water unevenly over the portion of the body of the individual.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is a perspective drawing of a preferred embodiment wherein water is pushed under pressure through a vascular water distribution system attached directly to the body of a user;

FIG. 1B is a perspective drawing of a preferred embodiment wherein water is pushed under pressure through a vascular water distribution system attached to a shirt;

FIG. 2A is a close-up drawing of a section of FIG. 1B, showing water being distributed by the vascular water distribution system onto the fabric of the shirt;

FIG. 2B is a close-up cross sectional drawing of the embodiment of FIG. 1B, showing the vascular water distribution system attached to the shirt and distributing water onto the fabric of the shirt;

FIG. 3 is a perspective drawing of a preferred embodiment wherein water is drawn by capillary action through a vascular water distribution system attached to a shirt;

FIG. 4A is a perspective view of a worker painting the exterior of a house while wearing a shirt with a vascular water distribution system, a source of water, and a hand pump for pumping water into the vascular water distribution system;

FIG. 4B is a perspective view of a worker painting the exterior of a house while wearing a shirt with a vascular water distribution system, a source of water, and a hand pump for pumping compressed air into the source of water so as to force water into the vascular water distribution system; and

FIG. 4C is a perspective view of a worker painting the exterior of a house while wearing a shirt with a vascular water distribution system, a source of water, and a pump activated automatically by movement of the painter's leg for pumping compressed air into the source of water so as to force water into the vascular water distribution system.

FIG. 5 is a perspective drawing of an exerciser using a stationary exercise device while wearing a vascular water distribution system attached to both a shirt and a headband, while a wetness sensor limits the amount of water delivered to the vascular water distribution system and a fan enhances the evaporative cooling;

FIG. 6A is a perspective drawing of an exerciser on a bicycle wearing a vascular water distribution system attached to a shirt and supplied with water by gravity from a bottle carried on the bicycle rider's back;

FIG. 6B is a perspective drawing of the embodiment of FIG. 6A, with the water bottle strapped to the support bar of the bicycle and supplied to the vascular water distribution system by a pump;

FIG. 6C is a perspective drawing of an exerciser on a bicycle wearing a vascular water distribution system attached to shorts and to the inside of a helmet worn by the bicycle rider, the vascular water distribution system including a drinking port and being supplied with water by gravity from a bottle carried on the rider's back;

FIG. 6D is a cross-sectional side drawing of a water bottle that uses air compressed in a space above the water to push water into the vascular water distribution system;

FIG. 6E is a cross-sectional side drawing of a water bottle that uses air compressed in a bladder surrounding the water to push water into the vascular water distribution system;

FIG. 6F is a cross sectional drawing of the water bottle of FIG. 6E oriented at right angles to the drawing of FIG. 6E;

FIG. 7A is a perspective view of a runner wearing a vascular water distribution system attached to a shirt and carrying a water bottle;

FIG. 7B is a perspective view of the runner of FIG. 7A, with the water bottle temporarily connected to a connecting port on the vascular water distribution system; and

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an exerciser on a stationary exercise device wearing a shirt with a vascular water distribution system attached to it, to which chilled water is supplied by a water chiller.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1A illustrates an individual 100 wearing a vascular water distribution system 102. In the preferred embodiment of FIG. 1A, the vascular water distribution system 102 is a network of channels that distribute water supplied under pressure through a hose 104 onto the abdomen of the individual 100 so as to provide evaporative cooling while reducing perspiration. Cross braces 106 maintain the shape of the vascular water distribution system. In FIG. 1A, the vascular water distribution system 102 is directly attached to the individual 100 by straps 108.

FIG. 1B illustrates a shirt 101 to which a vascular water distribution system 102 is attached by hook-and-loop fastening 108. In other preferred embodiments, the vascular distribution system 102 is attached to a garment by tie strips, glue, buttons, magnets, pins, snaps, and/or any other attachment mechanism. The water can be supplied from any convenient source, depending on the exercise circumstances. For example, when using a stationary exercise device indoors the water can be supplied from a water plumbing system that extends throughout the building. When exercising outdoors, for example running or bicycling, the water can be supplied from a container carried by the individual, from a container attached to a portable apparatus such as a bicycle that accompanies the individual, or it can be obtained from watering stations along the exercise route. These options are discussed in more detail later in this section.

FIG. 2A and FIG. 2B present close-up views of the fabric 101 used in the shirt of FIG. 1. In FIG. 2A, it can be seen that water channels 200 of the vascular water distribution system 102 are attached at intervals to the fabric 101, and that they have small outlet holes through which water is sprayed onto the fabric 101. In the cross sectional view of FIG. 2B it can be better seen that the channels 200 in this embodiments are held against the surface of the fabric 101, protruding partially above the outer surface of the shirt 101, and spray water onto the surrounding fabric 101. In the embodiment illustrated by FIG. 2A and FIG. 2B the channels themselves 200 are not permeable to water, except through small holes purposely set in the channels 200. In similar embodiments, the channels are made from cloth or other material that is semi-permeable to water, so that it is not necessary to include holes specifically to allow the water to pass from the channels 200 to the shirt 101.

FIG. 3 illustrates a shirt 300 similar to the shirt 101 of FIG. 1, except that the water flows through channels 302 that include larger main channels and smaller branch channels that extend from the main channels. The channel holes in this embodiment are in direct contact with the surrounding shirt 300, and the surface tension of the water causes water to be drawn through the channels 302 by capillary action, as compared to water being driven through the channels 200 under pressure in the embodiment of FIG. 1A and FIG. 1B. In similar embodiments, water exudes through holes in the channels and evaporates directly from the holes, cooling the channels and the water contained in the channels, and thereby cooling a portion of the individual that is in thermal contact with the vascular water distribution system.

FIG. 4A illustrates use of the present invention to cool a worker performing outdoor work that could otherwise lead to overheating. In FIG. 4A, a house painter 400 is painting the exterior of a house on a warm day while standing in direct sunlight. A bottle 402 strapped to his waist supplies water through a first hose 104 to a vascular water distribution system 102 attached to a shirt 404 worn by the painter 400. A second hose 406 delivers water to a second vascular water distribution system 408 in a cap 410 worn by the painter 400, so as to cool the painter's head. In the embodiment of FIG. 9A, the house painter 400 pumps water into the vascular water distribution systems 102, 408 by squeezing on a pumping bulb 412 located along the first hose 104.

FIG. 4B illustrates an embodiment similar to FIG. 4A, except that the water bottle 402 contains pressurized air that forces water into the vascular water distribution systems 102, 408. The painter 400 can use a squeezable pump 414 to increase the pressure of the air inside of the water bottle 402. In this embodiment, water is pushed continuously through the vascular water distribution systems 102, 408 by the pressurized air, thereby maintaining continuous cooling of the painter 400 while requiring the painter 400 to operate the pump only occasionally so as to maintain pressure in the water bottle 402. FIG. 4C is similar to FIG. 4B, except that the air in the water bottle 402 is automatically pressurized by a pump 416 attached to the leg of the house painter 400, such that the pump 416 is actuated automatically by the natural movements of the house painter 400.

FIG. 5 is a perspective drawing showing an exerciser 500 using a stationary exercise device 502 while wearing the vascular water distribution system 102 attached to the shirt 101 of FIG. 1 as well as a second vascular water distribution system 503 attached to a headband. Water is supplied to the shirt 101 and to the cooling headband 504 through hoses 104, 506, from a plumbing system not shown in the figure. So as to further increase the evaporative cooling, a fan 508 is used to blow air onto the shirt and headband. So as to avoid excessive wetting of the individual, a sensor 510 attached to a wire 512 is used to monitor the degree of wetness of the shirt 101 and limit the amount of water delivered to the shirt 101 and to the headband 504.

FIG. 6A is a perspective drawing of an exerciser 600 riding a bicycle 602 while wearing the shirt 100 of FIG. 1. Water is supplied to the shirt 100 by gravity from a water bottle 604 attached to the back of the individual 600. A flow of air resulting from movement of the bicycle 602 enhances the evaporative cooling of the shirt 100. FIG. 6B is a perspective drawing of an embodiment similar to FIG. 6A, except that the water bottle 604 is attached to a supporting bar of the bicycle 602 rather than to the back of the exerciser 600. In this embodiment, the exerciser 600 can control the amount of water delivered to the shirt 100 by pressing on a water pump handle (not shown) conveniently positioned on the handlebars of the bicycle 602.

Exercise performance can sometimes be enhanced by cooling the muscles that are performing the most exercise. In FIG. 6C, an exerciser 600 is riding a bicycle 602 while wearing shorts 606 cooled by a vascular water distribution system 102 that distributes water to the cooling shorts 606 by gravity from a water bottle 604 attached to the back of the exerciser 600. In FIG. 6C, the bicycle rider's head is also cooled by supplying water 608 from the water bottle 604 to a vascular water distribution system located inside of the rider's helmet 610. The helmet 610 includes vents that allow a flow of air due to the movement of the bicycle to reach the inside of the helmet 610 and cool the bicycle rider's head by evaporation. Water from the water bottle 604 is also supplied to a drinking port 612 located near the mouth of the bicycle rider, allowing the water to be used for drinking as well as cooling. In addition, the bicycle rider can force water from the bottle into the vascular water distribution system by blowing into the drinking port 612.

FIG. 6D presents a cross sectional diagram of the water bottle 604 shown in FIG. 6A. Water 614 can be contained in the bottle 604 and dispensed through a fitting 616 mounted at one end of the bottle 604. The water 614 flows to the fitting 616 through a tube 618 that draws the water 614 from the bottom of the bottle 604. An air space 620 located above the water 614 can be filled with pressurized air using an air fitting 622, thereby causing the water to flow into the vascular water system under pressure. The embodiment of FIG. 6D is appropriate for circumstances where the bottle 604 will be maintained in a substantially upright orientation, as shown in FIG. 6A.

FIG. 6E illustrates a water bottle 604 used in embodiments where the orientation of the bottle 604 will not necessarily be vertical, for example as shown in FIG. 6B. In FIG. 6E, compressed air 620 is separated from the water 614 by a flexible membrane 624 that allows the air 620 to apply pressure to the water 614, but prevents the air 620 from being accidentally drawn out of the bottle 604 instead of the water 614. The central tube 618 in this embodiment includes holes 626 that allow water to enter the tube 618 at a plurality of locations along its length, thereby preventing any blockage of water flow as the membrane 624 collapses inward. FIG. 6F presents a cross section of the water bottle of FIG. 6E.

FIG. 7A is a perspective drawing of an exerciser 700 running while wearing the vascular water distribution system 302 attached to the shirt 300 of FIG. 3. The hose 104 that supplies water to the cooling channels 302 of the shirt 300 terminates in a connection port 702 that can be attached to a compressible water bottle 704 carried by the runner 700 so as to deliver water to the shirt 300 when the bottle is connected to the connection port and squeezed by the runner 700. FIG. 7B illustrates the preferred embodiment of FIG. 7A with the water bottle 704 connected to the connection port 702.

FIG. 8 is a perspective drawing of an exerciser 500 using a stationary exercise device 502 similar to the device shown in FIG. 5. The exerciser 500 in FIG. 8 is using the exercise device 502 while wearing a shirt 100 that includes a thermally conductive vascular water distribution system 800 through which chilled water is circulated by a water chiller 802 connected to the vascular water distribution system 800 by hoses 104, 804. The thermally conductive vascular water distribution system 800 brings the chilled water into thermal contact with the exerciser 500 before the water is distributed onto the shirt 100, thereby cooling the exerciser 500 both by direct convection and by evaporation. The chiller 802 includes both a cooling unit and a water pump.

Other modifications and implementations will occur to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention as claimed. Accordingly, the above description is not intended to limit the invention except as indicated in the following claims.