Space blanket


Space blanket
A space blanket

A space blanket (also known as a Mylar blanket, first aid blanket, emergency blanket, thermal blanket or weather blanket) is a blanket used in emergencies to reduce heat loss in a person's body caused by thermal radiation, water evaporation and convection.

Contents

Manufacturing

First developed by NASA in 1964 for the US space program,[1] the material consists of a thin sheet of plastic (often PET film) that is coated with a metallic reflecting agent, making it metallized polyethylene terephthalate or MPET, usually gold or silver in color, which reflects up to 97% of radiated heat.[2][3]


For use in space, polyimide (e.g. kapton, UPILEX) substrate is usually employed due to its resistance to the hostile space environment, large temperature range (cryogenic to 260 °C and for short excursions up to over 480 °C), low outgassing (making it suitable for vacuum use) and resistance to ultraviolet radiation. Aluminized kapton, with foil thickness of 50 and 125 µm, was used e.g. on the Apollo Lunar Module.[4] The polyimide gives the foils their distinctive amber-gold color.

In the US, space blankets are made by vacuum depositing a very precise amount of pure aluminum vapor onto a very thin, durable film substrate.

Usage

In their principal usage, space blankets are included in many emergency, first aid, and survival kits because they are usually waterproof and windproof. That, along with their low weight and ability to pack into a small space, has made them popular among outdoor enthusiasts and emergency workers. Space blankets are often given to marathoners at the end of races. The material may be used in conjunction with conductive insulation material and may be formed into a bag for use as a bivouac sack (survival bag).

In first aid the blankets are used to prevent/counter hypothermia. A threefold action facilitates this:

In a hot environment they can be used to provide shade, but using them to wrap a person would be counterproductive, because body heat would get trapped by the airtight foil. This effect would exceed any benefit gained from heat reflection to the outside.

Space blankets are used to reduce heat loss from a person's body, but as they are constructed of PET film, they can be used for other applications for which this material is useful, such as insulating containers—e.g. for DIY solar projects—and other applications.

In addition to the space blanket, the United States military also uses a similar blanket called the "casualty blanket". It uses a thermal reflective layer similar to the space blanket, backed by an olive drab colored reinforcing outer layer. It provides greater durability and warmth than a basic space blanket at the cost of greater bulk and weight. It is also used as a partial liner inside the layers of bivy sacks in very cold weather climates.

See also

References


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