Secret ingredient for a safer bike helmet – paper

From the BBC:

The basic idea behind cycle helmets is to create a mini crumple zone – a bit like you’d find in a car – that absorbs some of the energy and gives your skull and brain more time to slow down before coming to a stop.

Those extra few milliseconds can reduce the amount of compression in the brain and potentially make the difference between brain damage and a mild case of concussion.

At the moment, the material used to protect us in a crash is polystyrene.

[…snip…]

…Anirudha [the inventor] turned to a cheap and easily accessible source – paper.

He engineered it into a double-layer of honeycomb that could then be cut and constructed into a functioning helmet.

“What you end up with is with tiny little airbags throughout the helmet,” he says.

“So when you have a crash, what these airbags do is they go pop, pop, pop, pop, pop – and they go all the way to the bottom, without the helmet cracking. That’s what absorbs the energy. ”

The paper design has been tested to European standards, and when compared to a standard polystyrene helmet, the results are impressive.

“If you crash at 15 miles per hour in a normal helmet, your head will be subjected to around 220G [G-force], whereas the new design absorbs more of the impact and means you experience around 70G instead,” says Surabhi.

To put that into context, international safety standards recognise that to avoid serious brain damage, a person must not be exposed to impact forces above 300G.

This means that while a polystyrene helmet helps you to avoid fatal or serious head injury, the paper helmet will give your head more time to slow down and potentially lower the risk of even less serious injuries like concussion.

Fascinating. It’s a free puff for the inventor, but still interesting. Read it all, here.