Instructables
video Shape Memory Foam Impact Attenuator
My name is Sean Davis and I am 22 years old, born July 16 1990.  The proposed project is a continuation from theoretical work I did during my undergraduate studies.  The idea was to add a crumple zone to a football helmet, decreasing the peak impact force experienced by the athlete.  The research had very promising results however I graduated bringing my progress to a halt.  The next stage of the project would be to create a proof of concept.  As this project lacks the backing of a university or a private company, I will be unable to continue the work until I find a funding source.

The issue of concussion in football is a very serious one, over 300,000 kids are hospitalized with concussion every year.  If I were awarded the prize money I would hope to create a fully functioning prototype that could hopefully be a start down the road to increasing the safety of all football players.  The same approach could easily be expanded beyond football helmets to hockey helmets, motorcycle helmets and even to consumer goods such as protective cases for computers or phones.
lemonie2 years ago
Crumple-zones largely stay crumpled, the point being to dissipate energy in deforming metal non-elastically. If your theoretical metal sponge returns to it's same shape, you'll end up with helmets "bouncing" off each other, and this will put collision energy in peoples necks or similar.
"Crumple zones" that return back to their normal shape are built on the inside of helmets as synthetic-polymer foam pieces aren't they?

L
seanweinstein (author)  lemonie2 years ago
I guess I explained myself poorly. Nitinol is a shape memory material, so if it is plasticaly deformed it can be returned to its previous shape after heating. The idea is that the Nitinol foam would act like a crumple zone and deform non-elastically. Then, post collision, the Nitinol would be reheated and it would return to its previous shape so that it could be re-used instead of thrown away.

Thanks for your question
Oh right I get it, but this would require changing helmets after every hard-tackle?

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seanweinstein (author)  lemonie2 years ago
The goal would be to build a heating device right into the helmet so that the helmet could be reset in between plays without the player having to leave the field or change helmets. I freely admit I have thought of a hundred reasons why this would be a challenge and I'm sure there are hundreds more that I haven't thought of. I entered the Jack Daniels independence contest so I could try and build a prototype and hopefully get some excitement around the idea. Designing a helmet like this that is so different for all existing helmets would require a ton of work and a long time. I've classified the "how long would it take the helmet to reset" and "when will the players need to leave the field" problems as down the road issues. The first step is just to prove that a reset-able crush-able foam can be constructed.