Steve Russell (Textiles) and Paul Steenson (Engineering) have been developing a technology for use in search and rescue, and road safety applications.
Radar requires a flat electrically-conducting surface in order for a strong signal to be reflected back to the sending device. Currently, it is virtually impossible to use radar to locate people lost at sea or on land, or in the urban environment, since any of the usual optically-reflective devices are unlikely to provide a suitable radar reflection.
The team is developing garment lining materials which are highly reflective to radar for applications in outdoor clothing, lifejackets and rafts. The technology involves light-weight radar retro-reflector panels, using an appropriate-shaped surface which can provide a strong radar reflection capability at all angles making the wearer highly visible to radar.
This flexible reflective membrane, within the lining, does not compromise the garment’s wearability, durability or appearance of the fabric, and the technology can be extended for use in a road safety context; for example, in children’s and other vulnerable road users’ clothing (such as cyclists and other pedestrians).
The aim of this aspect of the work is to optimise the lining so that it can be linked to the automated braking and radar systems found in many vehicles today, with the intent of preventing very many high speed collisions between motor vehicles and vulnerable road users, which are one of the primary causes of premature death in an urban environment.
The inventors are currently at the stage of prototype optimisation and commercial appraisal. The Innovation Fund has provided £45,000 towards patent filing, market research and prototype development and testing, which has helped to unlock matched funding from the Regional Development Agency.