As any coach or sports medicine expert will tell you, when an athlete receives a blow to the head, their saying that they feel OK doesn't mean that they don't have a concussion. Particularly in sports like football, it's important to have an objective method of measuring just how much of a hit a player's noggin has taken. While some people have developed impact sensors that can be attached to players' helmets, a student at Utah's Brigham Young University has devised something less obtrusive – impact-sensing helmet-lining foam.

Created by mechanical engineering grad student Jake Merrell, the material is known as Xonano ("exo-nano") smart foam.

It consists of a silicone-based foam, that contains nanoparticles of an undisclosed piezoelectric substance. When that foam is compressed, the particles create an electric charge. That charge is detected by a small microprocessor recessed into the top of the helmet, that wirelessly transmits the data to a tablet monitored by a coach or someone else.

“A coach will know within seconds exactly how hard their player just got hit,” said Merrell. “Even if a player pops up and acts fine, the folks on the sidelines will have data showing that maybe he isn’t OK.”

Jake is currently developing a prototype Xonano-equipped helmet. Besides the foam's use in helmets, however, he also envisions it being used in other applications where impact sensing is required – these could include law enforcement, automotive systems, or the development of footwear.

More information is available in the video below.

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