Animal Skin and Eye Moisture and Heat Simulator
Inventor: Robert Hockaday
Day job: President, Energy Related Devices
His all-time favorite invention: Hockaday points out one of his own inventions called the “microconcentrator photovoltaic cell.”
How his invention could affect our lives: It can help researchers determine how foggy goggles will become under different circumstances.
What the actual patent says: “A new simulator of the human head and animal bodies mimics moisture transpiration from eyes and skin and heat emission. The present invention used to demonstrate and quantify anti-fogging performance of goggles and apparel.”
Meet the inventor: Talkative, eccentric and lab-coated, Robert Hockaday perfectly fits the stereotype of the mad Los Alamos scientist. He has numerous experiments sitting around his lab—including one human head simulator.
To be honest, SFR was expecting to find a sweating mannequin head in the Los Alamos lab, perhaps in a test tube-filled room where Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” blares over loudspeakers, for dramatic effect.
No such luck. Instead, just a tall, clear beaker, standing maybe three feet high, with heated water inside and a porous piece of black fabric covering what appear to be eyeholes.
Hockaday cranks up the heat on the “head” to body temperature, and it begins to perspire.
The invention was the result of another one. He wanted to invent goggles that could withstand the rigors of war, so he could sell them to the Department of Defense. He did so—soldiers are currently wearing Hockaday’s goggles—but while working on that project, he realized he needed to test his eyewear in real-life circumstances. He began running around the office trying to work up a sweat while wearing the goggles. But that was not very scientific. “You need a controlled environment,” Hockaday says. That’s when he came up with the heat simulator, which can get as hot as 122 degrees Fahrenheit and as cold as -4.
“We jokingly call it ‘Jughead,’” Hockaday says. “We made it originally from a pretzel barrel, then cut out an eye area and put in a very thin water-permeable membrane.”
He says everyone who sees Jughead loves it—his kids especially.