CMU lab explores science behind diapers

High-tech baby manikin tests moisture absorption for baby product manufacturer

| Author: Andrea Mestdagh

Students and faculty in Central Michigan University's Center for Merchandising and Design Technology have been on diaper duty for the past few months.

Lunaler, a leading producer of high-end maternal and baby products based in Guangzhou, China, enlisted the CMDT to test how well its daytime and nighttime Lelch diapers absorb moisture from a baby's skin. For the testing, students and faculty used Lumi, the center's baby manikin.

The size of a 12-month old child, Lumi is a sweating thermal manikin which features heating elements and temperature sensors that allow research into how a baby reacts to apparel and textile products in a variety of environmental conditions.

"CMU is the first university in the U.S. to have an infant manikin for understanding the thermal comfort of infants and toddlers," said Tanya Domina, professor and chair in Fashion Merchandising and Design. "Our lab features thermal cameras, microclimate sensors and an environmental chamber, making it a good fit to provide real-world results for clothing designers and producers."

The study simulated and evaluated the temperature and humidity between the baby's skin and diaper during the day and night, as demands on diapers are different depending on the time of day. The CMU team placed microclimate sensors inside diapers worn by the baby manikin. Controlled amounts of liquid were introduced through an IV dispenser as internal humidity and temperature were measured using high precision sensors and infrared thermal technology. Tests were conducted with the baby manikin wearing only the diaper, as well as the diaper and clothing.

L-2020-171-008 Diaper Research as
Lumi in the lab. The cables are for collecting data from the manikin's many temperature and moisture sensors.

"One significant thing we found was that even when the diaper was dry, it would pull moisture from the environment," said Leslee Weible, senior electrical electrical engineering and fashion design minor from Falls Creek, Pennsylvania, who worked on the research project. "So no matter what, the diaper would keep the baby drier than it was before."

Josh Golden, a senior fashion merchandising and design major from Holt, Michigan, who helped with thermal imaging, said the science behind clothing came alive through the research.

"Having an opportunity to learn about how much of a difference one small garment, no matter how thin or thick, can make in body temperature isn't something people think about," he said. "There's so much science and data that goes into clothing."

CMDT students and faculty have worked with numerous merchandise design and production companies, including Carhartt and Cotton Inc., American Textile Company, Cintas and Empowerment Plan to test the thermal comfort of their products.

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