Friday, January 04, 2008
New military helmet measures impact
As an embedded reporter in Iraq, I had a chance to see firsthand some of the strengths and shortfalls of the gear being used to protect our military. As a neurosurgeon I was particularly interested in the helmets worn by U.S. armed forces. In the spring of 2003, I was asked to operate a few times in Iraq on soldiers and civilians with catastrophic head injuries, which gave me a unique look at the pattern of injuries being suffered. Truth is, it seemed for the vast majority of people, the helmets did a good job, given the constraints. Keep in mind, they had to be lightweight, not too warm given the climate, and still durable enough to protect against shrapnel wounds.

We now know, though, that traumatic brain injury has become one of the signature injuries of this war and one of the biggest culprits is IEDs or improvised explosive devices. A big question is just how much force does an explosive device generate? How much acceleration and how much pressure is really generated? Well, that is hard to know, but a new technology the Army is using caught my eye.

When we started making calls to the U.S. Army about the helmet, they actually offered to fly a helmet to the CNN Center, complete with a soldier, Major William Schaffer, to demonstrate the technology. It is essentially a smart helmet that carries a microchip that measures impact, from things like an IED or even just from landing on the ground after a jump. A group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will receive the smart helmets when they deploy for Afghanistan in the spring. Now, while it is admittedly difficult to directly correlate the effects of those measured blast forces on the brain, the hope is that one day it could lead to the design of even safer equipment.

A lot of people are thinking about safer and more effective protective gear. Do you have any ideas or thoughts on how to make better gear? We can share some of your thoughts directly with the Army.

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Dr. Gupta,

I saw your TV snippet earlier this morning about smart helmets and just read your blog about the topic.

For the last four years I have been working with a group of scientists at Drexel U. and University of PA that are developing a hand-held, highly portable device to detect the presence of blood under the skull (intracranial hematoma) following a TBI. We have now performed over 340 human tests under the FDA guidelines and the results are 90%+ in correlation with CT Scans.

This device, known as the 'InfraScanner' uses safe Near Infrared light to detect the presence of blood clots within a minute or two which is otherwise only possible to diagnose with a CT Scanner.

I personally think that if this technology can be made to reach the soldiers, it will without a doubt play a significant role in saving lives and timely diagnosis on the field.

In April 2007, BBC World News televised a 2 minute story about this innovation and you can see the segment here:

Please visit to learn more about the InfraScanner.

The following are my contact coordinates:
Phone: 267.342.3303

Thank you.

Regards, Mihir
I am a fan of the Futureweapons show. They do introduce future gear such as dragonskin, which is a lighter, but stronger form of vest. It supposedly can protect a soldier from and IED blast almost perfectly. I dont understand why the military has not constructed a full head protective helmet that protects not only the top fo your head but your whole face. I was told a company introduced one to the military, but was turned down. I understand that the climate conditions could be a factor of this, but it's more important to be safe on the battlefield, maybe even inserting some kind of cooling system in the helmet, depending on the climate.
well, if you wanted to make a better helmet I would suggest using the impact reading microchip, as well as the same structure and shape of a normal combat helmet but instead of kevlar or other materials, something similar to the new dragonskin armor should be used
Saw this news on:

Finland’s VTT have developed a new material that can be used in bullet proof, anti-theft and shrapnel protection applications.

VTT have sold the patent rights to Exote Oy, another Finnish Company who intend to build a production facility in Southern Finland to produce the material.

The material itself is composed of ceramic and metal. It is claimed to be as hard as tungsten carbide, yet tougher than ceramic, with the ability to be easily moulded into shape. It also has good resistance to high temperatures. VTT’s material has the advantage over existing ceramic materials that they can absorb repeated impacts and heavy blows.

The new material and associated production techniques are being optimised for large-scale production. Tests are also being carried out to explore other potential commercial applications for the material.

I know a lot of folks are confused about Dragonskin and why it isn't used. I'd start off with, don't buy into the hype you see on TV in show like the one you mentioned. They are primarily for entertainment and quite often present incorrect or biased information.

Dragonskin has several problems which I won't go into here. The Interceptor armor we wear is extremely good, better than anything ever fielded in the past. Big concerns for troops in the field are weight, heat, and mobility. If you stop and consider that an individual US servicemember has to carry a basic load between about 37 to 41 pounds gear like weapons, First Aid, protective gear, etc. and that they have to be able to go long distances and run, crawl, drive, etc., then you can see that any extra weight must be very carefully considered. And this doesn't include things like rucksacks.

I can go into greater detail privately.

Master Sergeant B.
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