Marmot, the 29-year old Californian mountaineering products company (the first manufacturer to use Gore-Tex) has created a Gore-Tex jacket with built-in electroluminescent panels. It's a working prototype, a year away from market, and designed for mountain rescue teams, ski patrollers, and police and fire service personnel. But the technology could also be incorporated on hi-vis jackets for cyclists.

Bright idea for jackets of the future

The Phenomenon EL jacket has come from the collaboration of the Marmot Project Team, the W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. Advance Development Group and the R&D department of Novatech Electro-Luminescent, Inc. of Chino, California.

The electroluminescent panels on the garment sleeves can be used to illuminate an immediate area around the wearer to read maps, or perform tasks. But it’s as an aid to personal visibility that the jacket comes into its own.

?Electroluminescence (EL) is the conversion of electrical energy into light. It was developed in 1936 and found commercial application in the early 1960s in illuminated aircraft instrument dials. Since then, it has been applied in a broad range of products, ranging from consumer products to telecommunications, automobiles, safety equipment and functional architectural applications. Cycle helmet bands have been made out of EL strips, although none have been commercially successful.

EL light is shadow less, homogeneous, can be shaped to fit into small places, available in many colours, does not produce heat, is insensitive to shock, is weatherproof and is flexible.

“The Phenomenon EL jacket is a true cutting edge concept garment,” said Jim Frazier, VP of Design for Marmot.

“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 as the Marmot team athletes and professional mountain guides will push this piece to the very edge of its performance envelope and it can not fail. This piece represents a major break through in garment design and development and will initiate a whole new field of products for the outdoor enthusiast."

Alden Short, a Marmot Project designer, said:

“I believe this kind of convergence of technologies will be liberating. The relationship between fashion, function and technology now becomes less distinct. This is performance outerwear that works with a switch. You can turn it on.”

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