UVA team’s discovery could be game changer for football helmets

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 1:57 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - An invention by a research team at the University of Virginia may better protect football players’ heads from hard hits on the field.

“This new mechanism has a potential for mitigating blast waves to save peoples’ lives,” said Baoxing Xu, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UVA.

Liquid nanofoam, as it’s called, would offer an enhancement to the traditional padding found in helmets by reducing any contortion caused by high-force blows, according to Xu. When the typical nanofoam becomes deformed, it is much less effective.

“If you only rely on the solid materials, [...] there’s always this mechanical deformation,” said Xu. “But if you think about a flow of a liquid, then if it is a porous structure, then liquid can flow into the pores very quickly, it could be in a nanosecond.”

Xu said that fraction of a second could mean the difference between whether or not a player is seriously hurt. An eighth-of-an-inch piece of liquid nanofoam outperformed a traditional piece of foam used in most football helmets in impact tests.

“That’s why we think that it can be used for a helmet in football, to mitigate a high impact,” he said.

Xu believes liquid nanofoam could have practical uses in other fields as well, including in hospital settings.

Do you have a story idea? Send us your news tip here.