Researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, in collaboration with French speciality materials leader Arkema, developed a tougher and safer bicycle helmet. They created the composite helmet manufacturing process for an outer shell made primarily of a new type of acrylic thermoplastic resin called Elium® that is reinforced with carbon fibre. What does Elium® do? It makes the outer shell tougher.
“Our partnership with Arkema is driven by the desire to develop a new type of reinforced thermoplastic bike helmet that is stronger and safer for cyclists,” said co-author Kah Fai Leong.
40% less impact than conventional bike helmets
According to the new study, the new Elium® outer shell prototype helmet absorbs over 50% of the impact energy in flat anvil and hemispherical anvil tests, leaving the foam to absorb the remaining 35%. This is around 40% less compared to conventional polycarbonate outer shell helmets.
“The more impact absorbed by the composite shell, the less of it that reaches the foam, and so there is less overall impact to the head. We found that in existing polycarbonate helmets, about 75% of the energy is absorbed by the foam. This is not ideal as the foam is in direct contact with the human head,” said co-author Dr Somen K. Bhudolia.
Fewer critical and fatal injuries
Testing also showed a difference in the severity of injury in case of a crash. Conventional helmets have a critical injury rate of 28,7% and a fatality rate of 6%, while the critical and fatal head injury criterion rates with the Elium® helmet are reduced to 16,7% and 3% respectively, according to the test results.
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“The detailed manufacturing and certification tests performed on the helmets have shown a significant potential of using a carbon/Elium® thermoplastic based composite shells as a viable alternative to the conventionally used material systems for helmets in terms of achieving enhanced safety,” the authors of the study concluded in their paper.
Similar price and weight to a conventional bicycle helmet
The scientists and Arkema plan to establish a large scale manufacturing process so commercial brands can produce helmets using Elium® composite technology. Results have shown that, Elium® made helmets offer at least the same level of protection, if not improved safety, as the current top rated helmets sold today that meet internationally recognised safety standard EN1078 / EN 1080.
The outer shell of a conventional polycarbonate shell helmet weighs around 116 g with a total weight of 230 g. The researcher said that the Elium®-infused helmet weights 155 g for the shell and 265,2 g in total. They also added that prices of this new type of helmet would likely range between $100-$150. This is roughly what you would pay for a quality bicycle helmet now.
Are you going to be looking for Elium® helmets when they arrive at your local bike store?