A super absorbent foam made of carbon nanotubes has been created
Cushioning materials are designed to eliminate, among other things, impact force, which is easily noticeable in helmets. In them, at the moment of impact, for example on asphalt, both the outer layer of plastic, which absorbs the shock, and the foam located directly between it and the user’s head play a major role. It is trying to absorb as much of the force from the crash as possible, and it appears that its ability to do so could be greatly improved with carbon nanotubes.
Previous scientists have proven this by using carbon nanotubes in foam for helmets, that is, a sheet of graphene rolled into a tube, that is, a material one atom thick with carbon atoms joined together in a honeycomb shape. The resulting lightweight foam consists of many millimeter-scale hollow cylindrical structures with walls composed of carbon nanotubes. The cylinders are vertically aligned with each other and the nanotubes that make up their walls are vertically aligned.
Presumably, this is what makes the “super absorbent” foam so revolutionary. Of course, it’s not like adding carbon nanotubes alone is very useful. The researchers initially had to do a lot of experimentation to discover that factors such as the inner diameter of the cylinders, the thickness of their walls, and the size of the gaps between adjacent cylinders had a significant effect on the cushioning properties of the foam. They discovered the best mix after trying 60 different variables, among which they chose the best, showing 18 times higher energy absorption compared to the foam used in US Army combat helmets.
The innovative foam was also stronger and more rigid, and retained these properties even at very high and low temperatures. Importantly, the discovery didn’t end there, as the scientists are now working with helmet manufacturer Team Wendy to test their helmet foam prototype in real-world conditions.
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