Ultra-Dissipative Liquid-Crystalline Elastomers for Head Protection

P.E. Jenkins, A.H. Torbati, C.M. Yakacki
University of Colorado Denver, Colorado, United States

Keywords: Liquid Crystal Elastomers, Energy Absorption, Concussion Prevention

This project seeks to introduce a new class of materials, liquid crystalline elastomers (LCEs), into the design of helmet foams to reduce MTBI that are experienced by military personnel. Current helmets use commodity foams that rely on a porous structure to provide cushioning rather than the material itself. LCEs are a class of smart materials that have been shown to dissipate energy across a wide range of loading conditions. These materials have traditionally been extremely difficult to manufacture and therefore have never been tested in energy impacting applications. The investigators have recently patented a new method to synthesize these materials. This study is the first to investigate the use of LCE materials to reduce the impact forces and accelerations that are experienced by helmet user during a collision or blast. Specifically, we aim to investigate how LCEs can be manufactured into liner materials with enhanced directionally-dependent (i.e. anisotropic) properties to maximum shock absorption and energy dissipation. Secondly, LCE materials will be fabricated and incorporated into the current helmets used by the military. These prototype helmets and materials will be tested using a pneumatic ram and under blast shock waves to evaluate the performance of the LCE materials .