MSU testing liquid nanofoam to make sports safer

Michigan

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State University researchers are testing liquid nanofoam as a way to make football helmets safer for athletes, even after taking big hits.

MSU Assistant Professor Weiyi Lu says when a normal football helmet withstands an impact that is bad enough to give the player a concussion, some of its safety features can be damaged, making it unsafe for future use.

Lu is testing a substance called liquid nanofoam as a way to improve helmets in the future. The material is full of microscopic pores that give it a huge internal surface area.

The researchers coated those pores with a substance that repels liquids, then added saltwater. As a result, the liquid is pressurized when the material is impacted.

Lu and his team performed impact tests on a layer of liquid nanofoam as well as a layer of traditional helmet foam that was six times thicker. The nanofoam out-performed the helmet foam, and kept up that performance after 10 consecutive tests.

Helmets made with the nanofoam could be thinner than traditional helmets and form-fitted to each athlete’s head.

Lu says the next phase of his research will focus on withstanding more powerful impacts, like bomb blasts.

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