NC State “Superheroes” Protect Real-World Heroes
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NC State “Superheroes” Protect Real-World Heroes


NC State students get the chance to work in the only lab in the United States that can evaluate new material designs in these extreme conditions.

When a firefighter enters a burning building, the safety of his clothing and equipment should be the last thing on his mind.

That’s why it’s the first thing on the minds of Dr. Roger Barker and his team of students at North Carolina State University’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center (T-PACC). T-PACC, a world leader in laboratory-based instrumented systems, has facilities devoted to analysis of heat and flame protection, chemical resistance, and comfort performance.

T-PACC has developed a stable of “superheroes,” manikins that test garments for comfort and resistance to heat, flames and hazardous chemicals. The lab’s claim to fame, PyroMan™, is a fully instrumented, life-sized manikin used to evaluate the performance of thermally protective clothing. Housed in a large fire test chamber, the PyroMan system provides safe, controlled, repeatable exposures to flames. Here’s a video of these research tools in action.

PyroMan is a highly sophisticated instrument used to study garment and body reaction to intense heat and flames. It is useful in determining the safety and effectiveness of firefighting turnout suits. Sensors on the manikin indicate potential burn injuries to a wearer, as well as burn area and severity.

Over the years, PyroMan’s fiery “family” has expanded to include PyroHands™, used to measure the effectiveness of firefighter gloves, and PyroHead™, which helps researchers test the safety of helmets for first responders.

Barker recently announced that the family is expanding with the development of RadMan™, which will help researchers evaluate the radiant heat exposure that wildfire firefighters combat.

But there is more to T-PACC than just fire protection. The sweating manikin is used to evaluate clothing for heat and moisture management related to garment insulation and breathability. And the Man In Simulant Test (MIST) Lab allows researchers to test protective apparel for its ability to withstand hazardous materials.

This one-of-a-kind lab creates unique research opportunities for students, and has been push out life-saving research findings since 1994. T-PACC is the only academic center in the U.S. that incorporates, in one location, the capabilities to research, test, and evaluate the comfort and protective performance of textile materials, garments, and ensemble systems.