TI05 - September 19

A lightning rod jacket that saves lives

It's the result of the happy marriage between technical textiles and electronics. Designed with the risks faced by telecommunication tower service technicians in mind, the E-Caption 2.0 jacket is a unique safety device, not only capable of monitoring, but also of protecting its users from the harmful effects of radiation

António Moreira Gonçalves

It’s yet another proof of the happy marriage between technical textiles and electronics. Developed having in mind the risks that base antenna technicians face, the E-Caption 2.0 coat is a unique safety equipment, which monitors and protects its users from the effect of radiation. It became one of the main protagonists at Techtextil, when it swooped the Innovation Award in the New Application category, but the creators wish to take this technological jacket even further.

“As a matter of fact, it works as a protective shield for the user, reflecting radiation and informing when it exceeds safe levels”, describes Caroline Loss, the University of Beira Interior (UBI) researcher responsible for the development of the project.

The technology was first developed in 2014, when Caroline was finishing her PhD in Textile Engineering. On a previous initiative, entitled Proenergy, UBI had already developed a wireless sensor network formed by nodes with energy scavenging capabilities, applied to textiles. However, a product that implemented the idea was lacking. Therefore, came the E-Caption coat.

In its first version, 1.0, the equipment still carried an unpractical integrated rigid plate. “After making that first version, as a prototype, the next step was industrialization, a jacket with a real life use”, explains Caroline. For the version 2.0, the one that was presented and awarded at Techtextil, the project counted with the collaboration of Borgstena, a factory that specializes in textiles for the auto industry.

“We simultaneously created a smart jacket and a protective equipment”, claims the researcher. In order to achieve this, two different fabrics were used: a small polyamide rectangle coated in copper, which is the antenna, and a special knit with two different sides: on the outside 100% polyester, which makes it look like a regular jacket, and on the inside 100% silver, which gives the fabric its conducting capabilities. “It’s this internal layer that reflects the radiation off the jacket – even absorbing a part of it – preventing it from contact with the body”, explains Caroline Loss.

Aside from insulating the user from radiation, the jacket also has an LED that emits a luminous warning if the levels of radiation become too high. This makes life far easier for technicians, who no longer need to carry measuring equipment.

After the laboratory tests and the presentation at Techtextil, the E-Caption 2.0 coat is currently under testing and has a patent pending.

Meanwhile, ideas have come up for a 3.0 version. “The fashion area, with a more commercial concept. The same system – that lights up an LED – could also be used to absorb the surrounding energy of small devices, such as an iPod or a smartwatch”, predicts Caroline Loss.

The Product

E-Caption 2.0 - Smart and Safe Coat
Developed by the Universidade da Beira Interior, Instituto de Telecomunicações de Aveiro and Instituto Superior de Engenharia de Lisboa, in cooperation with Borgstena
Responsible team: Caroline Loss, Daniel Belo, Pedro Pinho and Rita Salvado

What is it? A smart personal protection jacket for the maintenance crew of telecommunication antennas What is it for? To protect the technicians from harmful radiation, warning the user in case of high levels of radiation Project Status? Currently under testing and with patent pending.