Blast-Absorption Technology Protects Troops from Brain Injury

Tank close-up with text US Army on it.

Researchers from the University of Maryland recently unveiled a new military vehicle shock absorption design focused on protecting troops from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that can occur after running over a land mine or IED (improvised explosive device). Since 2000, more than 250,000 soldiers have suffered these types of injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

New research has led to the development of materials and a vehicle frame design that could greatly reduce the number, and extent, of injuries stemming from under-vehicle explosions. The team was the first to demonstrate how the acceleration (G-force) felt by soldiers in these vehicle blasts can cause mild to moderate TBI even when other vital organs are unscathed.

Because this intense acceleration can destroy synapses, damage nerve fibers, and damage the brain's blood vessels, the medical members of the team joined forces with the University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering to develop an advanced shock absorber that incorporates polyurea-coated tubes.

The materials help to disperse the impact of the force, reducing G-forces by up to 80 percent. The polyurea’s composition allows it to compress and rebound to help slow the acceleration. These findings were then combined with research related to an elastic frame also engineered to mitigate G-force. The next step will involve developing a larger scale model for testing and validation.

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