Material Science - Helmets: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Oct 05, 2010
Scientist: Dr. Daniel A. Savin

Material Science - Helmets

Material Science - Helmets
Why are some sports helmets designed to break on impact?

Patriots football game

The sounds of football game, where as a player the last sound you want to hear is your helmet getting hammered on by an opposing team member. Material Science to the rescue. I'm Jim Metzner and this is The Pulse of the Planet. In our last program, we learned how different forms of plastic are created from different kinds of polymers; spaghetti-like strands of molecules that we can change to get materials with different properties, materials like foam.

DANIEL: So not all foams are created equal. You can use different foams for different types of applications.

Daniel Savin is an assistant professor materials science at the University of Southern Mississippi

For example, if you ride your bicycle, hopefully you wear a helmet. Well helmets are designed so that if you crash and you hit your head on the ground, your helmet is designed to actually break apart so that all of the impact goes into your helmet and not into your head which is how it protects you. But if you go to play football for example,

DANIEL: and you go into a collision hopefully the helmet is not going to shatter. You want the helmet to stay as it is but you want the foam inside of it to absorb the impact of the collision.

The same thing is true for baseball helmets but the foam for baseball helmets is a little bit different because the impact you have with a baseball helmet is usually a lot faster if you get hit in the head with a baseball than what you would see in a football collision.

Daniel Savin is one of the participating scientists in this year's KSC, our free nationwide competition for third to 6th graders. Think up a new way that materials science can make sports safer or more fun and enter on kidscience Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation, I'm Jim Metzner.