US outdoors clothing company Marmot have announced that they’re working with Gore and Electro-Luminescent technology company, Novatech, to develop Electroluminescent mountain wear, with bike-specific gear planned further down the line.
The idea currently being developed is to take a Marmot waterproof/breathable, all-weather Gore-Tex XCR performance shell and add to it Electroluminescent panels that will provide both close-range visibility for the wearer and longer distance identification, without a significant weight gain.
The potential benefits for mountain use are pretty obvious. Not only will someone wearing one of these jackets be able to read a map etc. without fiddling round with a torch, but they’ll also be far more visible to other people. So that means more visible to companions, mountain leaders and emergency services if need be.
First developed in 1936, Electroluminescence (EL) is the conversion of electrical energy into light. Its first commercial application in the early 1960s was illuminated aircraft instrument dials and it’s since been used in broad range of gadgets and gizmos from safety equipment to telecommunications, but it has never been integrated into high performance outerwear until now. The light EL provides seems perfectly suited to use in mountain clothing: it’s shadow less, homogeneous, doesn’t produce heat, is insensitive to shock and is weatherproof. What’s more it’s flexible enough to be shaped to fit into small places and is available in a range of colours.
Marmot have already developed prototypes of an Electroluminescent jacket but there are still many months of testing ahead. Marmot VP of Design, Jim Frazier, “It is awesome looking and it works, but we have only just begun serious field trials for the functionality, durability and longevity of the system… We have to make sure the full system is reliable in all conditions”.
And the good news is that it’s unlikely that Marmot will stop at mountaineering jackets. They’ve already recognised that the technology has the potential to spawn a whole range of outdoors products, including biking gear where applications could be providing light for fiddling round with maps and tools or simply increasing rider visibility. We might not see it for a wee while yet, but it looks like an interesting bit of technology.