The KTN Innovation Exchange (iX) is seeking innovative approaches to needlestick and puncture resistant materials, for use in glovebox gauntlets in nuclear decommissioning.  The winning business(es) in this competition will be given an opportunity to present their solutions to Sellafield, with the potential of a commercial opportunity to deliver their solution.

Background

The Innovation Exchange is supporting Sellafield to identify innovative solutions to the challenge of operator safety whilst working in gloveboxes, through increased puncture and needlestick resistant materials (for use in gauntlets).

Introduction

As part of Sellafield’s decommissioning programme, gloveboxes used historically for R&D and fuel fabrication need to be dismantled. There are over 700 gloveboxes in total on the Sellafield site, although not all are currently in use. They have many different designs but typically can be thought of as a sealed, ventilated container and which is sometimes under an inert atmosphere. Long gloves (gauntlets) are attached to the glove box viewing windows via a change port that operators can place their hands into them and work on hazardous materials inside the gloveboxes. Access is via 6-inch entry ports where containment has to be maintained and manoeuvrability within the glovebox is difficult due to limited access, light and visibility, as well as complex machinery within. Gloveboxes being decommissioned often contain exposed wire (similar in diameter to hypodermic needles), cropped cables, pipework or needlesticks, which pose significant hazards to operator safety. Unrevealed sharps are a major issue.

Typically, operators would wear two pairs of amber latex gloves (used commonly in food or chemical processing industry) under an ambidextrous gauntlet. At times, additional gloves (lead lined, heat resistant or cut resistant (Kevlar lined) may also be added, as either an over-glove or under-glove to the gauntlet).

Sellafield are seeking to use needlestick and puncture resistant gauntlets to increase operator safety but without significantly reducing dexterity or increasing the weight or load for the operator. They are interested in new or novel materials, solutions or technologies which can be used in or with gauntlets. The ideal scenario would result in a material which can be made into a gauntlet which would replace both the gauntlet and the cut-proof inner or over-gloves. They would like to be at the point of mass production and procurement of these within one year.

The key benefit is intended to be increased operator safety due to removal of risk of needlestick and puncture injuries. However, dependent on the solution, the following benefits may also be realised:
• Reduced weight or increased flexibility leading to reduction in operator fatigue and pain and potentially an increase in the time-period the glove can be used for
• Improved fit, if gloves are appropriate to hand size, (including stretching to fit)
• Improved dexterity (over current gauntlet)
• Improved ability to remove the glove (including if required to get it off quickly)

Proposals are welcome for:
• Novel materials or solutions in development
• Existing market-ready technologies
• Established solutions from other sectors of industry which can be adapted for this application.
• Development proposals based on existing competences.
• Universities, RTOs and Catapults with above TRL 4 solutions and potential routes to market.

Potential solutions may come from a host of sectors, including but not limited to:
• Medical, healthcare, drug rehabilitation and pharmaceutical industry
• Defence
• Space
• Textiles, materials, composites or moulding
• Manufacture of PPE
• Emergency services
• Diving / Deep sea exploration

Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to Sellafield. The package may also include:
• Support and /or funding in the development of a prototype or pilot, potentially via the Game Changers programme
• Technical support or discussions from Sellafield and / or Game Changers as required.
• A place in KTN or Catapult events
• Support from KTN and introductions to relevant Catapults or potential collaborations (e.g. to manufacture the gauntlet) and any applicable funding streams.

The full requirements and technical specifications can be seen at the KTN-iX site. You will need to register (free) and login to see full details of the challenge.