UW-Madison engineers use carbon nanotubes to better protect against brain injuries

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College of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have developed a brand new shock-absorbing foam comprised of carbon nanotubes aimed toward lowering traumatic mind accidents in U.S. troopers. The fabric has been proven to soak up shock 18 occasions higher than present army helmet liners and will additionally provide athletes higher safety towards concussions.

As a way to sort out huge points like mind accidents on the battlefront, UW-Madison affiliate professor of engineering and physics Ramathasan Thevamaran thinks small — as in micrometers. He and fellow engineers on the college have developed a method to make versatile carbon tubes, round a thousand occasions smaller than a human hair, into a brand new kind of ultra-shock-absorbing foam. 

“Right here, you have got aligned carbon nanotubes,” Thevamaran stated. “If you compress them, they may bear a buckling kind of deformation in order that they’re giving a cushioning kind of deformation.” 

A analysis paper printed within the journal Excessive Mechanics reveals the nanotube foam has an vitality absorption fee 18 occasions larger than conventional foams presently utilized in army helmets. 

Thevamaran stated creating a brand new kind of helmet padding for the army comes with many challenges. It must be gentle, snug and should keep its shock absorbing properties in excessive climates. As a result of it is made from carbon, Thevamaran stated, it retains its efficiency at temperature round -800 levels Fahrenheit. 

As a result of the carbon foam is a novel materials, he and colleagues designed 180 experiments to search out which mixture of nanotube thickness, diameter and gaps between the tubes have been greatest at absorbing shock. 

That resulted in a foam round 3 millimeters thick that makes use of a chemical course of to develop the tubes like hair. Thevamaran stated the crew mixed two layers and started smashing the nanotube foam to see the way it recovered from the shock. 

“And the good factor about this sort of nanotube foam is (the nanotubes) would get better virtually completely,” Thevamaran stated. “So, you should utilize them for a number of hits so they do not fully get crushed and are executed in a single shot.”

Thevamaran’s lab has partnered with Group Wendy, which manufactures army and different kinds of helmets.  

“Now what we’re doing is we take this understanding ahead, and we work with Group Wendy to check them in precise helmet liners in order that we might consider them,” he stated.

Group Wendy will then carry out drop assessments utilizing a model with sensors that detect forces from affect. Thevamaran stated if all goes properly, researchers will proceed fine-tuning helmet prototypes that would ultimately make it to U.S. troopers. 

“We need to cut back traumatic mind damage attributable to direct impacts, blunt impacts or shock loading, even secondary impacts throughout a blast,” Thevamaran stated. 

However he notes the potential for the brand new kind of shock absorbing foam go properly past army purposes. 

“Ranging from a bicycle helmet the place you can incur concussion to soccer gamers,” Thevamaran stated. 

The UW-Madison researchers are patenting the brand new kind of froth, which was developed in collaboration with UW-Madison’s PANTHER program, which seeks to higher detect and shield towards traumatic mind accidents.

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