Shock-absorbent material could lead to stronger yet safer applications
Image credit: Johns Hopkins University
Researchers in the US have developed shock-absorbing material that protects like metal but is lighter, stronger, and reusable.
According to its creators at Johns Hopkins University, the new foam-like material could be a game-changer for helmets, body armour, and automobile and aerospace parts.
“We are excited about our findings on the extreme energy-absorption capability of the new material,” said senior author Sung Hoon Kang, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
“The material offers more protection from a wide range of impacts, but being lighter could reduce fuel consumption and the environmental impact of vehicles while being more comfortable for protective gear wearers.”
Kang wanted to create a material even more energy-absorbing than current car bumpers and helmet padding. He noticed the typical materials used for these critical protective devices don’t perform well at higher speeds and often aren’t reusable.
The research team could add strength while reducing weight with high energy-absorbing liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs), materials mainly in actuators and robotics (see below).
During experiments to test the material’s ability to withstand impact, it held up against strikes from objects weighing about four to 15 pounds, coming at speeds of up to about 22mph.
They limited the tests to 22mph because of the limits of the testing machines, but the team is confident the padding could safely absorb even greater impacts.
Kang and his team are currently exploring a collaboration with a helmet company to design, fabricate, and test next-generation helmets for athletes and the military.
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