Improved bike helmet is built with a combination of materials

All around the world, cities are growing, and populations are increasing significantly, leading to overcrowding on the highways. While many people take public transportation, others prefer to get around by walking or riding bikes. Researchers from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have worked with a French specialty materials company called Arkena to develop a safer bicycle helmet built using a combination of materials.

The outer shell of the new helmet is made from a plastic resin developed by Arkema called Elium. The material is reinforced with carbon fiber to make the outer shell stronger, stiffer, and less brittle than a polycarbonate shell. The material also increases the helmet contact time, which is the total time of impact with the helmet experiences and impact load.

The properties in the new helmet allow the outer shell to absorb more impact energy over a longer period and dissipate the energy evenly through the helmet. The result of the technology and design is less overall force reaching the head, which reduces the chances of a critical injury. To test the helmets, the team threw them at high speed onto metal anvils.

The team says they threw the helmets onto the anvil at speeds that would have cracked open a durian fruit. The composite outer shell of the helmet absorbs the bulk of the impact providing better safety results than current mass-produced helmets. The team of researchers is working with engineers at Arkema to develop a molding process for the Elium material.

The team says helmets produced using the new method will offer the same protection as current top-tier helmets with the potential of pricing like a mid-tier helmet. There is no indication at this time when helmets based on the new material and process might be available for bicyclists to purchase.