Researchers hope to use the data to design solutions such as cooling clothes or backpack exoskeletons for cooling support.
Researchers are using a thermal dummy that sweats, breathes and walks to understand what the human body experiences under extreme heat.
Thermal dummies have most commonly been used to optimise high-end ski jackets or other temperature-controlling garments.
But as it remains unclear what is happening to the human body during a heat stroke and the research team at Arizona State University is trying to “understand in detail what was happening to the core temperature as somebody has experienced a heat-related illness or death”.
Arizona State University’s ANDI is one of the only two thermal dummies used by research institutions and was custom-built for ASU’s research.
“There are lots of experiments you really do not want to do with humans because somebody could end up being hurt…with the thermal manikin, we can actually simulate the conditions and see how fast that core temperature is increasing,” said Konrad Rykaczewski, associate professor at the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy at Arizona State University.
The manikin is tested in a heat chamber, dubbed the “Warm Room”, where researchers control the wind, temperature up to 60 degrees and solar radiation to simulate heat-exposure scenarios from different places around the globe.
According to the World Health Organisation, Europe saw at least 15,000 death specifically due to the heat during the record-breaking heat waves in 2022. This is expected to increase as the global temperature rises due to climate change.
Researchers also control ANDI’s 35 different surface areas individually.
Using its temperature sensors, heat flux sensors and pores, ANDI can mimic the thermal functions of the human body such as generating heat, sweating and shivering.
As people respond differently to extreme heat depending on age, body size and other health characteristics, the research team at ASU factors those in and creates a wide range of thermal regulation models.
“We can move different BMI models, different age characteristics and different medical conditions (into ANDI),” said Ankit Joshi, an ASU research scientist leading the modelling work and the lead operator of ANDI in a press release.
“A diabetes patient has different thermal regulation from a healthy person. So we can account for all this modification with our customised models,” Joshi added.
ANDI is also the world’s first thermal dummy to be used outside thanks to its internal cooling channels circulating cool water throughout its body.
While acknowledging there’s not going to be a “silver bullet for anything,” researchers hope to use the data to design solutions such as cooling clothes or backpack exoskeletons for cooling support.
“We're trying to approach this from a very holistic point…Could we change something in that thermal history of the person? What they were doing before? Could they take a longer break? How much would that help?” said Rykaczewski.
The research team says it plans to pair ANDI with ASU’s biometeorological heat robot, MaRTy, to better understand human sweating mechanisms.
“MaRTy measures the environment, and then ANDI can then tell us how the body can react,” said Ariane Middel, an assistant professor in the lab.
The duo will first walk around ASU’s Tempe campus and eventually be tested in exposed streets and old mobile homes without air conditioning in the greater Phoenix area.
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