A busted bumper or banged up panel can give some indication of the severity of a car crash, but what about the unfortunate vehicle's insides? Researchers in Germany have worked with Daimler to develop new X-ray technology for crash testing, which provides a new perspective on safety components inside the car during impact, and better forecasting for real-life crashes as a result.

The new X-ray technology was developed by Daimler in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics. The team says that while X-ray technology has been used previously for static observations, this is the first time it has been used as a tool to analyze crash tests in real-time.

To optimize the technology for their purposes, the team spent time making technical adjustments so it could capture recordings during a high-speed impact. This meant shortening the exposure time by a factor of 1,000 compared to regular X-ray technology, winding up with an ultra-fast version they've called X-ray car crash (X-CC).

The hope is that X-CC can shine a light on the internal safety structures of modern, lightweight vehicles during a crash, which are not visible from the outside and are increasingly built from complex materials. The tech can provide ultra-high-speed images at different moments of the crash to reveal new detail about the deformation process, and Daimler describes the quality of these images as razor sharp.

These insights can be matched up with car-crash simulation models to see how accurate they really are. In their initial testing, the team says the images confirmed the predictions made by their crash simulators and therefore supported the model, but the new tool will help them improve its reliability as they advance to more complex tasks. For example, in the upcoming year, the researchers will look to combine the images and simulation data with algorithms from computed tomography to create three dimensional images of the deforming structures during impact.

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