10 June 2011

Cooler headgear means fewer accidents

RMIT University research has resulted in a major safety innovation - being able to lower temperatures inside motorcycle helmets.

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Dr Sinnappoo Kanesalingam's breakthrough research has resulted in lower temperatures in motorcycle helmets.

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The innovative textile materials used to lower temperatures by up to 9 degrees Celsius.

Using innovative textile materials, temperatures in motorcycle helmets and headgear such as construction hardhats can be lowered by up to 9 degrees Celsius.

The research by Dr Sinnappoo Kanesalingam will benefit people who live and work in northern Australia and tropical countries, reducing heat stress and making headgear more comfortable to wear.

Dr Kanesalingam found that by using innovative textiles to line motorcycle helmets, such as Polymeric Water Absorbent Textile (PWAT) materials and Phase Change Materials (PCM), the temperature inside the helmet can be lowered.

"The PWAT material provides a drop in temperature of 8 to 9 degrees Celsius within the helmet, while PCM gives temperature drops of 3 to 4 degrees," Dr Kanesalingam said.

A light, non-toxic, environmentally friendly textile helmet liner consisting of replaceable inserts, made of either PWAT or PCM, can be incorporated within the helmet without modifying existing helmet designs.

"The liner can also be used in new helmets and can be adapted to use in other areas such as construction sites, where helmets are mandatory," Dr Kanesalingam said.

A large number of motorcycle accidents occur in tropical countries, where the motorcycle is an affordable mode of quick transport.

In most of these accidents head injuries are the most prevalent, because either motorcycle helmets aren't worn or only loosely to comply with traffic laws.

"In tropical countries, helmets are often perceived as uncomfortable and restrictive to use, so finding a solution to this problem to minimise head injuries in accidents was important," Dr Kanesalingam said.

Reducing heat stress and wearer discomfort for helmet wearers in the tropics will hopefully help motorcycle riders to be more careful, concentrate on the road more and avoid accidents.

Benefits will also flow on to construction workers who wear hardhats in hot countries like Australia.

"I hope my findings persuade motorcycle riders to wear the cooler helmets, which will ultimately result in fewer accidents, hospitalisations and trauma and will reduce the cost to society of motorcycle accidents," Dr Kanesalingam said.

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