Our extreme environments laboratories help us understand, evaluate and enhance people's comfort, performance and survival in extreme environments such as high altitudes, humid jungles and rough seas.
Our researchers, students and partner organisations apply the information they gather using the labs in areas such as sport, product development, emergency rescue, military training, polar exploration, and film and TV production.
We regularly collaborate with external organisations for research and training. Our partners include the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), and Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
In 2013, actors Jake Gylenhaal and Josh Brolin used our temperature and altitude facilities to acclimatise and prepare for their roles in the 2015 film 'Everest'.
Equipment and rooms
Our extreme environment facilities include:
- A chamber with temperature range of -20C to 50C (-4F to 122F) with humidity and altitude control — suitable for polar expedition preparation, mountaintop simulation and jungle climate training
- A 100m³ chamber immersion pool and 4m long swimming flume (which acts like a treadmill for swimmers) with a temperature range of 0C to 50C (32F to 122F) and underwater observation windows
- A low-humidity chamber with a 4.5m³ temperature-controlled immersion pool — capable of underwater weighing (hydrodensitometry), cold water immersion and survival suit testing
Testing and monitoring
Tests and monitoring we can do in the lab include:
- Laser doppler skin blood flow — a non-invasive laser measurement of participant blood flow
- 12 lead electrocardiogram (ECG) — to monitor the heart's electrical activity through on-skin electrodes
- Q-Sweat analysis system — to measure perspiration and help identify autonomic nervous system conditions
- Skin and deep body temperature measurement — to monitor internal core body temperatures
- Infra-red thermography — to detect, display and record thermal patterns and temperatures across different surfaces
- Expired gas analysis — measuring breath particles to understand the effects of exercise on metabolism
- Body composition assessment — to identify lean mass and body fat percentage
- Lung function assessment — using oxygen and carbon dioxide measurement to assess breathing ability
- Measurement of blood pressure — to monitor how blood pressure is affected by different extreme environments
All of these tests can be run in our main chamber to simulate human performance at differing altitudes up to the height of Mount Everest. Most of this testing equipment is also portable and can be taken outside for field-based research and projects on other sites.
Where to find us
Extreme Environments Lab