Young Scientist: Emily Duffy (15) designs sleeping bag for homeless

Limerick student builds bag using bubblewrap, velcro and waterproof metallic tape

Finding a way to help homeless people inspired an impressive project on display this morning at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS.

Emily Duffy from Desmond College, Limerick has designed and built a lightweight sleeping bag suited to homeless people that works well in any conditions and also has many clever safety features.

“I wanted to develop a sleeping bag that would solve some of the problems with existing cloth bags,” said Emily, 15, a third year student who is participating in her third Young Scientist event.

She assessed the shortcoming of exiting bags and then one by one eliminated them with her novel design.


She used waterproof lightweight metallic bubblewrap to replace rain-soaked cloth, with the trapped air bubbles helping to increase the warmth of the bag. She added a fire resistant coating on the wrap and used waterproof metallic tape to seal the seams.

She also added reflective strips to increase visibility at night and Velcro openings so the person can escape from the bag very quickly if necessary. She added a pouch which can be used to keep clothing or footwear dry and this doubles as a pillow when folded over for sleep.

Emily conducted safety tests and used the bag herself to ensure it was waterproof and provided sufficient warmth.

“It is lightweight and designed to last,” she said of her prototype bag. “It will last many years and much longer than a conventional sleeping bag.”

It is easily rolled up and would also give good service in disaster relief situations, she added. Modified versions could even be used for conventional camping if rain is an issue, something that is never far away in Ireland.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.