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A Device for the Skin–Contact Thermal Resistance Measurement

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3 Author(s)
Saggin, B. ; Dipt. di Meccanica, Politec. di Milano, Milan, Italy ; Tarabini, M. ; Lanfranchi, G.

The skin-contact thermal resistance is a parameter that allows evaluating, in steady condition, the heat flow at the interface between the skin and a rigid surface at a known temperature. At the current state of the art, it is evaluated with empirical equations and is known to be dependent on the contact pressure, on the surface characteristics, and on the skin conductivity. The need to measure skin and contact thermal resistance with low uncertainty led to the realization of the device described in this paper. The instrument - based on the principle of the thermoflowmeter - has been designed with the goal of minimizing the measurement uncertainty with contact temperatures ranging between 12 °C and 27 °C and contact areas from 50 to 314 mm2. The device allows varying and controlling the interface pressure and temperature that, according to existing literature studies, are likely to influence the skin thermal properties. The different temperatures needed for the evaluation of the thermal resistance are measured with individually calibrated thermocouples. The metrological characterization of the flowmeter was performed under vacuum, and the effect of convective heat exchanges in normal operation was modeled and compensated. Measurement repeatability and reproducibility were assessed by measuring the thermal resistance of plastic materials in operational conditions. Preliminary tests showed that the skin-contact thermal resistances measured in different conditions are compatible with the theoretically evaluated ones, with improvement in uncertainty due to direct measurement.

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Instrumentation and Measurement, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:61 ,  Issue: 2 )