Are you ready to chill your arteriovenous anastomoses? Isn’t everyone? A call from one of our readers brought news of a technological way to help a body “dump heat.”
By Al Pickett, special contributor
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) directive requiring workers on drilling rigs to wear flame retardant clothing (FRC) and take breaks every hour has created a new service industry providing “cooling trailers” to give rig hands a place to get out of the heat and cool down.
A story in the August issue of Permian Basin Oil and Gas magazine addressed that issue. But what if there were a way to cool workers down and get them back on the rig quicker? A phone call from someone with Dynavision International in Ohio, who had read the story online, told of a new device in which a worker can simply put his hand inside the device and cool down his core body temperature.
AVAcore Technologies, Inc., in Ann Arbor, Mich., is now marketing a new product called CoreControl. It is a noninvasive and easy to use. Chuck Hixson, president of AVAcore Technologies, said CoreControl was originally developed using the principles of mammalian thermoregulation.
“The research started in the 1990s,” explained Hixson. “Two professors at Stanford [Dr. Dennis Grahn and Dr. H. Craig Heller] had a government contract with the Department of Defense. The technology was used by our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They discovered that all mammals have specialized structures to selectively dump heat.”
So how does it work?
Humans have the ability to selectively dump heat in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, face and ears. So how can one “dump heat” when wearing FRC clothing, heavy chemical suits, military clothing, or full football gear?
“Insulation reduces heat exchange between a body and the environment,” Grahn and Heller wrote in their research “Heat Loss Through Glabrous Skin Surfaces.” Glabrous (non-hairy) skin surfaces constitute a small percentage of total body surface area, but contain specialized vascular structures that facilitate heat loss.”
The Stanford professors discovered that when an athlete or worker gets hot, blood flow naturally increases through these skin regions to dissipate heat by shunting blood to the surface through specialized blood vessels called arteriovenous anastomoses (AVAs).
“CoreControl enhances heat extraction through these radiator surfaces by amplifying local blood flow using a proprietary and scientific combination of carefully controlled temperature settings and a slight vacuum,” Hixson pointed out.
Why not just stick you hand in a bucket of ice? Hixson said that would constrict the blood vessels, slowing rather than improving the ability to cool the body’s core. Instead, the research has shown that tepid temperatures in the low 60 degrees is the optimum temperature range. By putting your hand in the CoreControl glove with the temperature at 61 degrees and a mild vacuum, Hixson claimed the device can extract heat up to five times faster. He described the mild vacuum as equal to the negative pressure of a deep inhale.
He said when one gets hot, the first thing that happens is fatigue. Hixson added the CoreControl device is designed to help with overheating due to exertion. If there is heat illness, such as a heat stroke, he emphasized that one should follow normal medical protocol, as CoreControl is not a medical device.
“In sports, CoreControl is used to give you greater endurance,” Hixson explained. “We have seen and documented a 25 to 50 percent endurance boost by cooling only two to three minutes. In the oil field, sticking your hand in the glove for two to three minutes equals 10 to 15 minutes in the cooling trailer.”
Hixson said the CoreControl device cools the core body from the inside, not the outside skin temperature.
“People confuse skin temperature with core temperature,” he continued. “When you use our device, you will feel refreshed, but you won’t feel that your skin is cool. You don’t know when the core body is hot or cold. You are not going to have an ‘Aha!’ moment, but you will stop sweating, be alert, and be able to go back to work.”
Uses for CoreControl
Hixson said a number of athletic teams, including the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Texas Rangers, have used the CoreControl glove to improve endurance. Firefighters in two of the hottest places in the United States—Phoenix and Lake Havasu, Ariz.—are using it, too.
“They can come in and sit beside the fire truck, put their hand in the glove, and cool off in just five minutes,” he said.
The CoreControl device is portable and operates off a lithium ion battery, similar to a lap-top computer battery. Hixson said the battery is good for four to six hours. Electricity is required to recharge the battery. The device has to be filled with ice, and the ice is mixed with lukewarm water to produce the optimum 61-degree temperature.
“You hand never touches the water,” Hixson related. “It rests on a pad that circulates the water.”
The glove includes a wrist seal that holds the vacuum. The vacuum pump creates a low level subatmospheric pressure inside the chamber. The entire unit costs $895, according to Hixson.
General Production Services, an oil production company with more than 450 employees in Southern California, was the first to use CoreControl. George Harmer, safety manager for General Production Services, said he has used the CoreControl device in two different scenarios. One is as a preventive measure.
“I have a four-man crew on an acid pump,” he explained. “They have to wear chemical suits. We let them rotate. We hook one up [to the CoreControl device] and he is refreshed. It takes five minutes per person and they feel like new.”
Harmer said he also works at a race track, and he has administered the CoreControl device to remove excess heat from four people who were beginning to show signs of rapid overheating. He said CoreControl should be used to cool down before serious overheating occurs.
He said the CoreControl device has been used on one driver, one crew member, and two spectators at the race track.
In the oil field, Harmer said his goal is to have one CoreControl device for every five rigs.
“We do have cooling trailers, but they don’t get the core cooled down,” he added. “The slight vacuum gets the blood moving and makes it much more effective.”
Harmer said General Production Services first used the CoreControl prototype in the summer of 2012.
“I was amazed,” he said. “This summer was the second summer I have used it. For our crews doing acid jobs, it mitigated any heat-related problems. We had zero heat-related incidents this summer.”