Triboelectric Gloves

For the field-work assignment, we sought out substitutes for our target audiences of winter sports enthusiasts and people with Raynaud’s Syndrome. In the end, we compared our design against three heated gloves at different price points, a pair of microwavable gloves, and Simplicity ski gloves based on suggestions from the Raynaud’s Association website.

Winterial Rechargeable gloves ($15) use a rechargeable battery which provides 2 hours of heating for 4 hours of charging. While they boast extra padding to protect fingers, users the gloves were very bulky even compared to Simplicity’s ski gloves and it was hard to imagine using them for any activity involving the hands. Finally, many online reviews complained about the gloves’ performance: the gloves did not heat well even at above-freezing temperatures.

Verseo’s ThermoGloves ($99) used carbon fibers and a rechargeable Li-ion battery to distribute heat, with a 2-3 hour charge providing 4 hours of heat. These gloves were less bulky than the Winterial gloves; many user reviews mentioned being able to go fishing, skiing, and driving with the gloves, although some complained it was still too bulky for daily tasks like typing. Users complimented the gloves’ ability to perform sufficiently at freezing temperatures although performance below freezing was generally negative. Moreover, several had concerns about the bulky feeling of the battery which was attached to the gloves by a wire. Finally, these gloves offered an on/off switch to conserve power.

Volt Tatra Rechargeable Heated Gloves ($150) sported a waterproof nylon and leather exterior, a wicking interior, and a display panel for battery charge to provide an smart, comfortable heating experience. The gloves also operated at a lower voltage than the other gloves, although many users complained that the gloves performed poorly at near-freezing temperatures. Moreover, many expressed concerns over the low quality, proprietary charging system and lack of a wrist cinch for skiing. Users claimed the gloves were adequate for some activities like driving, but were too fragile for heavy winter activities and too bulky for activities like typing.

HXT’s Marathon Microwaveable Mittens used a microwaveable heat pack and a thick layer of thermally insulating material to distribute heat within the glove, with 40 seconds of microwaving yielding 3 hours of heating. Users praised the gloves’ ability to heat effectively even below freezing temperatures. From a design standpoint we saw two drawbacks. First, the mitten design prevented users from engaging in many activities like driving and typing. Second, the gloves had no thermal control system. If a user no longer wanted heat or overheated the gloves, he or she would have to wait hours until the gloves cooled off.

Our triboelectric glove design primarily addresses the issues of thermal control and dexterity. Because energy is harvested directly, the gloves do not need to be charged for hours before use. Second, using conductive thread rather than thick layers of insulation to heat would allow users to have greater dexterity in everyday activities, with the eventual goal of enabling typing, writing, and drawing. Downsides of our gloves are the longevity of the energy provided and durability. Without higher-grade materials, we have a significant challenge in converting energy generated by rubbing hands together into heat released by the circuit. Moreover, we would be using the same materials as many of the other gloves, which make our design not amenable to heavy working conditions as mentioned in the other reviews.