As highlighted by the cardboard bicycle, cardboard can be a surprisingly versatile manufacturing material in the right hands. Further proof of this comes via the Kranium: a bicycle helmet constructed from cardboard and designed by Royal College of Art student Anirudha Surabhi, which promises to be 15 percent lighter than standard helmets, while absorbing up to three times the impact energy during a collision.

Ani was inspired to create the Kranium following a nasty fall from his bicycle which caused a cracked helmet and minor concussion. Taking this experience as a cue to design a better helmet, he looked toward the animal kingdom, and the woodpecker in particular.

The Kranium is waterproof, and boasts some green credentials, due to it being manufactured from recycled paper

The designer was struck by the woodpecker’s ability to withstand repeated heavy impact, thanks to the bird’s unique corrugated cartilage structure which separates beak from skull – this concept gave rise to the Kranium’s honeycomb cardboard structure dubbed "Dual Density Honey Comb Board," or D2.

While some bicycle riders may balk at the thought of trusting their head to something as seemingly fragile as cardboard, the Kranium boasts some rather impressive safety figures. These were enough to secure the interest of Formula 1 team Force India, which is incorporating the Kranium technology into its own helmet design.

Rather than remaining completely rigid, the helmet is designed to allow a degree of flexing in order to help absorb impact force, of which it can withstand up to three times as much as typical expanded polystyrene (EPS) helmets, while remaining 15 percent lighter. These figures derive from tests conducted by Ani and his collaborators, in addition to safety testing laboratories such as Germany’s Technischer Überwachungs-Verein and Head Protection Evaluations, based in the UK.

Following two years spent in development, the Kranium is currently scheduled to be released sometime in December, 2012, price and availability TBA.

The video below details the process of bringing the Kranium to market.

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