WEST BETHESDA, Md. - Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock Division engineers conducted testing, Oct. 11, to fine tune the use of polymers in combat helmets to provide added protection against traumatic brain injuries.
Full-scale blast response tests, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, using in-house developed pressure sensors and test mannequins, were conducted at the Carderock explosion test pit and Naval Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technology Division, Indian Head, Md.
"Traumatic brain injury has been called the signature injury of the Iraq war, and by extension, Afghanistan as well," said NSWC Carderock engineer and principal investigator Phil Dudt. "Thousands of casualties have been attributed to [traumatic brain injury] since the beginning of the war, so mitigating blast exposure to the brain has important implications for our troops."
Last year, NSWCCD's initial cooperative research and development agreement with DuPont Corp. delineated a combat helmet concept for mitigating intracranial blast exposure, and was extended another year to continue collaborative experimental research.
"The thrust of our work in the first year was to incorporate off-the-shelf, highly rate-sensitive polymers into the helmet design without an increase in weight while maintaining ballistic and blunt trauma capabilities," said Dudt.
This year, the team's research includes fine-tuning earlier work and variations to the initial concept.
"Providing protection against mild traumatic brain injury is actually more difficult than providing protection against a fragment," explained Dr. Roshdy Barsoum, ONR Explosion Resistant Coating and Engineering Systems Division manager and the project's resource sponsor. "The NSWC Carderock team has been working on the development of these polymers since shortly before the start of the Iraq war. Dudt and his co-workers have used their understanding of how these polymers behave under blast and ballistic conditions to develop a unique facility for testing and evaluating effectiveness."
The engineers are also developing advanced blast barriers using polymers under In-house Laboratory Independent Research funding.
"To protect the thorax and other organs particularly susceptible to blast injuries, the lungs for example, we're fabricating low-weight, low-cost blast barriers for use in building, structures and vehicles," said NSWC Carderock engineer and principal investigator Alyssa Littlestone. "Considerable success has been achieved in accomplishing this goal by filtering out injurious frequencies considered to be detrimental to soldiers in combat."
"Increased protective capabilities won't be fielded overnight, but more testing is in the immediate pipeline, giving the Navy valuable data so we can acquire the best products to safeguard our men and women on the front lines," said Littlestone.
NSWC Carderock responsibilities span a broad range including science and technology, research and development, test and evaluation, product delivery and fleet support. Specifically, NSWC Carderock Division leads the Navy in hull, mechanical and electrical engineering expertise and delivers technical solutions in order to build and sustain a dominant, ready and affordable fleet. Headquartered in West Bethesda, Md., approximately 3,600 scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel are located across the United States.
For more information on how NAVSEA supports our warfighters, visit: http://www.navsea.navy.mil/OnWatch/technologyinnovation.html
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