New blast sensors could help prevent traumatic brain injury

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blastsensors The readout from these blast sensors could help medical staff better assess a traumatic brain injury and also provide more details on the nature of explosions in the field.

The effects of traumatic brain injury on a member of the armed forces can be debilitating. Only relatively recently has the military been able to measure it and recognize there was actual physical damage to be treated. But since then, the military has made every effort to make sure its personnel receive treatment, and has accumulated a large amount of information on the subject. Despite this effort, figuring out how to detect TBI in a patient has been somewhat elusive.

A few years back, the researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory completed a one-year study funded by the Army and the Joint IED Defeat Organization to compare the effectiveness of various military and football helmet pads in mitigating the severity of impacts. Building off the study findings, a new mechanism was discovered that may contribute significantly to the detection from blast-induced TBI.

Work is underway on sensors that can be integrated into helmets, vehicles or building design. The readout from these devices can detail the extent of the blast, and this would help medical staff better assess the injury. One new sensor uses a tiny microelectromechanical gauge, and the other is an inexpensive, disposable and easily replaceable plastic cylinder. Each sensor contains a paper that changes color when exposed to specific levels of pressure.

This technology can also provide more information on the nature of explosions in the field. This data would make it easier to develop improved types of helmet padding and structure materials to better protect the brain or a building’s occupants against the shock of a blast. And, of course, this would eventually translate to fewer casualties from TBI, and lower costs for treatment.

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