University of Michigan researchers have entered the race to build a lightweight, more affordable and more effective football helmet, with a system they’ve called Mitigatium. The design incorporates three different layers that are meant to blunt some dangerous physics that today’s helmet designs ignore.
According to the researchers involved in the project, current helmets do a good job of preventing the peak force of an impact that can cause skull fractures, but they still let the brain dissipate the energy created by that hit.
The University of Michigan researchers are focused on creating a helmet that absorbs the negative effects of impulse – the secondary effect of an initial force or hit that may be the cause of brain injury in football players. They explain that impulse is what gives objects momentum and energy. Given the speed and weight of current football players, helmets need to be designed to block or reduce the forces of both impulse and impact.
After testing various materials in table-top collision simulators, the researchers found that the Mitigatium prototype did the best job, with a 20 percent reduction in impulse and a 30 percent reduction in peak pressure.