NASA Heat Shield Tech Transforms High-Tech Fabrics

A coating material developed for protecting spaceplanes heat shields is now being used in outerwear, sports uniforms, and jeans.

NASA goal in developing the Reusable Launch Vehicle program in the 1990s was to test technologies that would allow hypersonic spacecraft to travel into space at a low cost and on several occasions. Although it was never meant to do so, more than 20 years after it was canceled, hunting, skiing, and sports equipment have performed better as a result.

The material known as Protective Coating for Ceramic Materials, or PCCM, was developed by NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, to insulate the spacecraft heat shields during atmospheric re-entry. It has proven to be one of the program most prosperous spinoffs. The coating was developed by NASA, and Wessex Inc. (now called Emisshield Inc.) licensed the invention and began producing items for the market.

In 2013, Brad Poorman and Jim Hind incorporated Clean Textile Technology LLC, now of North Naples, FL, and were looking for a niche in high-tech textiles when they learned of PCCM. They approached Emisshield, which agreed to license its technology exclusively to them for use in fabrics in exchange for a share in the brand.

By 2015, Trizar was up and running, with commercial partners turning out a combined 300,000 or so jackets that year. Since then, the company has advanced its technology and worked its way into jeans, sports uniforms, and even face masks. In cold-weather gear, which is most of the company business, the material emits body heat back to the wearer. Trizar also produces low-emissivity formulas for hot weather, which reflect heat away from the body to keep people cool.

During the pandemic, Emisshield was awarded patents around the fibers and fabrics we had developed, and we did a lot of R&D while the factories were shut down.

The emissive components were first printed onto fabrics, but the team has now come up with methods to add them to yarn or thread before it is made into cloth. We have been able to provide performance without adding weight and at a significantly lower cost by incorporating it into the yarn.

These advancements have led to numerous commercial breakthroughs. Trizar was first used in some training equipment by Endeavor Athletic a few years ago, then O-Neill added it to jackets for snowboarding and skiing. Customers can now find Trizar materials in the following products: East Asian-sold Levis jeans; FORLOH hunting gear; Artilect Studio ski jackets and pants; KJUS jacket liners; Ergonomix apparel for hot and cold weather; and New Balance basketball and professional lacrosse uniforms.

A KJUS ski jacket with a Trizar-infused liner keeps a skier warm. Trizar, a brand name for textile infused with NASA-derived Emisshield coatings, has found its way into sporting gear and even some casual clothing from several major companies. (Image: KJUS)

The company makes its emissive material concentrates in the United States before shipping them to textile mills around the world.