Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists Michael Strano and Jacopo Buongiorno have developed a process to make a standard wetsuit incredibly resistant to thermal conductivity, which means it will stay warmer for much longer.

The treatment can increase the survivability time in water below 10C/50F from under an hour to at least two or three hours.

The development works by treating a standard neoprene wetsuit in an autoclave filled with a very heavy gas like Xenon or Krypton. The gas pushes the air out of the neoprene and replaces it. Once treated, the suits offer incredibly low thermal conductivity, almost as low as air itself.

Once the suits have been treated, they retain their new property for about 20 hours; if the suits are placed in a sealed bag, they will retain the effect of the treatment until it is opened.

The research was conducted to help develop improved thermal protection for U.S. Navy SEALs and rescue divers who have to spend long hours in the water. While currently this treatment would be very expensive, perhaps the day will come where divers rip open a new wetsuit bag every day of their holiday!

(Photo credit: Susan Young/MIT)

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