I know I touched on it last week, but this week begins my new research project, and I wanted to share a little more about what I’m going to be doing. The project is based off other shockwave experiments, including ones that test aircraft carrier hulls to see what kind of blasts they can withstand under water. Using the same shockwave principles, we are hoping to use biomimetics (mocking nature) to create a better helmet for military applications, hopefully mitigating effects from explosions on soldiers by reducing brain cell degradation and, in turn, preventing mental illness like PTSD and depression. It’s something I am extremely interested in because, while I love AME (aerospace/mechanical engineering), I also love neuroscience. This lab is a perfect combination of the two. When we are done with our preliminary tests (hopefully by the end of this year), we will even be able to test our product on real brain cells which are being grown in a lab in both 2D and 3D forms, so we can more accurately measure the effects of our helmet on dampening the shockwaves.
The biomimetics we will be using are those of the woodpecker. Since the woodpecker can withstand forces of up to 1500 G’s, and humans die around 90, woodpeckers seem the optimal species to copy. The key to their tough nature is found inside of their skull and within the beak. As the images show below, there exists a spongy bone layer between the skull and the brain which helps soften and disperse the blow of the collision.
I’m really excited about the prospects of this project, and I hope that one day these discoveries will lead to better solutions for our troops and for many more applications.