Lumens: A Luminous Life Jacket

Creators: Katerina Tchilinguirov & Silas Gibbins
Supervisor: Peter Yeadon

This materials-driven study of light-emitting smart materials resulted in the creation of a combined chemiluminescent and photoluminescent life vest for night rescue. This application of luminescent smart materials combines these two technologies to efficiently and effectively rescue individuals who fall overboard, particularly at night or in low visibility.
Many commercial maritime activities have to happen at night, such as seafood catches, oil drilling operations, or standard maintenance and repairs. Lumens was designed with the specific scenario of a ship that’s operating in the dark, dealing with a Man Overboard (MOB) procedure from an errant piece of heavy machinery slamming into a crewmember, potentially causing a loss of consciousness.

The life jacket is equipped with a water-soluble polysaccharide chemical agent that’s dissolved by water after submersion, which releases CO2 from a gas cannister into a sealed chamber, thereby providing ample buoyancy beyond what a typical horseshoe-shaped life jacket might offer. 
The overall effect is a durable, auto-inflated, glow-in-the-dark life jacket that can be worn over rough weather gear, and yet provides ample flexibility for maritime activities. It can keep an incapacitated person afloat for many hours and provide bright light to assist in the critical moments immediately following a MOB event. 

To create their life jacket, named Lumens, the team combined a pressurized self-inflation mechanism with an innovative chemical capsule release system. During inflation, pressure from the released CO2 causes hydrogen peroxide microcapsules to break and mix with a film of diphenyl oxalate (and an orange chemical dye). The resulting chemical reaction produces photons of light. 
Hence, the inflated life jacket is able to glow brilliantly from the chemical reaction. Beneath this chemiluminescent layer, the designers have also included a photoluminescent backing layer that will also glow, in case the rescue lasts longer than the lifespan of the chemiluminescent smart materials.

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