How space blanket works
Also known as an emergency blanket or Mylar blanket, the space blanket is a very thin plastic sheet that reflects heat and it is coated with an extremely thin layer of aluminum. Due to its design it helps to reduce the amount of heat that is lost from a person’s body, and they are used by a number of people from surgeons to astronauts to mountaineers. In this article, we will be looking at how space blankets work.
NASA was the first to develop the space blanket in their Marshall Space Flight Center in 1964 and it was done for the US space program. The material is made up of a thin sheet of plastic that is OFTERN pet, and it is coated with a reflecting metallic agent, which makes it metallized polyethylene terephthalate normally silver or gold in color. It was created by the manufacturers by depositing vaporized aluminum on a thin plastic film. This resulted in a thin, flexible material that reflects heat. The aluminum that is placed on the plastic film helps to redirect infrared energy which means that it reflects heat. Depending on how the blanket is made, it can either reflect heat in or reflect heat away. The former is how the space blanket helps to regulate a person’s body temperature while the latter is how NASA used it to cool down space stations.
Looking at how the space blanket helps to regulate a person’s body temperature; it is important to know that we lose body heat naturally. However, excessive loss of heat leads to hypothermia while too much heat leads to a heatstroke. So it is important that there is a balance. Our body heat is lost via different means such as evaporation, radiation, conduction, and convection. The space blanket helps to stop heat loss via evaporation, radiation, and convection.
Evaporation is when water is changed from its liquid form to gas. In a person, this liquid that is being changed to gas could be sweat or wet clothing. A lot of energy is expended by evaporation and this also lowers the temperature of the body. If you are sweaty in cold weather, the temperature of your body will drop quickly once you stop doing whatever was making you sweaty and the evaporation of the sweat from your skin will further make you even colder. So you need to be mindful of this. However, to prevent loss of heat via evaporation, do your best to stay as dry as possible and a space blanket could also help in your preventive measures. The space blanket helps to slow down the process of heat loss via evaporation by increasing the humidity of the air that is around the skin.
Then talking about convection, it is a lot like conduction in the sense that it is the transfer of either cold or heat between two bodies. However, unlike conduction, the cold body in the case of convection is moving such as the wind. When the wind blows and it passes through your body, it takes the warmth away from your body. The faster you are going through the wind, the coder you will get. You can use the space blanket to create a barrier between yourself and thick clothing you put on to create an insulation in an attempt to help reduce the heat loss via convection.
There is also loss of body heat via radiation. The space blanket has reflective agents which are normally silver or gold, and they help to reflect about 80% of your body heat that ordinarily would have been dispersed to the environment. Hence, the blanket helps to keep us warm with the heat that our body is already generating and losing.
When the space blanket is used to keep someone warm, it should be placed on a fabric blanket if there is one available, and the reflective surface should face up. There are also a number of other emergency uses for space blankets. They could also be used in hospitals for non-emergency situations such as for combating chills that come with the usage of anesthesia during surgeries. Long distance runners often receive space blankets to wrap themselves at the finish line. This is to help them prevent sudden loss of body heat.