Designing Safer Composite Helmets to Reduce Rotational Accelerations During Oblique Impacts

Proc Inst Mech Eng H. 2018 May;232(5):479-491. doi: 10.1177/0954411918762622. Epub 2018 Mar 15.


Oblique impact is the most common accident situation that occupants in traffic accidents or athletes in professional sports experience. During oblique impact, the human head is subjected to a combination of linear and rotational accelerations. Rotational movement is known to be responsible for traumatic brain injuries. In this article, composite foam with a column/matrix composite configuration is proposed for head protection applications to replace single-layer uniform foam, to better attenuate rotational movement of the head during oblique impacts. The ability of composite foam in the mitigation of rotational head movement is studied by performing finite element (FE) simulations of oblique impact on flat and helmet shape specimens. The performance of composite foam with respect to parameters such as compliance of the matrix foam and the number, size and cross-sectional shape of the foam columns is explored in detail, and subsequently an optimized structure is proposed. The simulation results show that using composite foam instead of single-layer foam, the rotational acceleration and velocity of the headform can be significantly reduced. The parametric study indicates that using a more compliant matrix foam and by increasing the number of columns in the composite foam configuration, the rotation can be further mitigated. This was confirmed by experimental results. The simulation results were also analyzed based on global head injury criteria such as head injury criterion, rotational injury criterion, brain injury criterion and generalized acceleration model for brain injury threshold which further confirmed the superior performance of composite foam versus single-layer homogeneous expanded polystyrene foam. The findings of simulations give invaluable information for design of protective helmets or, for instance, headliners for the automotive industry.

Keywords: Head protection; composite foam; helmet; oblique impact; rotational acceleration.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / prevention & control
  • Equipment Design
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Head Protective Devices*
  • Mechanical Phenomena*
  • Rotation*
  • Safety*