A mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at The University of Texas at Arlington is developing advanced helmets to ensure that members of the military are as protected as possible from blasts and other types of attacks. Ashfaq Adnan received a three-year, $1.5 million Distinguished Fellow Award from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop a process using additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, to build helmets with advanced multi-layer cellular materials.
He and his team will use enhanced polymers and nanomaterials to build these layers, which will consist of complex, optimized structures that, while lightweight, are strong enough to be more effective against impact by absorbing as much energy as possible. Since directed energy always travels in waves, the helmet will include a layer of materials designed to deflect those waves and mitigate their strength, much like stealth technology on aircraft. For further information see the IDTechEx report on 3D Printed Materials Market 2020-2030: COVID Edition.
The resulting helmets will be lightweight and resistant to blast impacts and directed energy attacks, such as lasers or sound waves. Additionally, sensors built into the layers will alert soldiers if they have suffered potentially damaging exposures. Once the helmet is complete, Adnan and his team will test it against the gold-standard helmet in use by the military today through his partnership in the Panther Program, a research collaborative hosted by the University of Wisconsin focused on the understanding, detection and prevention of traumatic brain injuries.
"I know what it means to make materials lighter, and the knowledge we've gained through our recent research gives us a new perspective on how materials can be applied to helmet design principles to create stronger, lighter, more effective protection for our warfighters," Adnan said. "We are in a unique position with our in-house capacity to study materials and structures to successfully develop this process and deliver what's been asked of us. I sincerely appreciate ONR for supporting our research. The award will advance our understanding of building advanced protective equipment against improvised and new types of threats that our warfighters routinely face in combat."
"At the top of a researcher's rewards is his or her impact on bettering lives," said Erian Armanios, chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. "Dr. Adnan's holistic approach to designing the next generation of helmets is bound to improve quality and save lives for warfighters in combat, workers in construction sites and athletes in the field of play."
Source: University of Texas at Arlington
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