Smart Helmet: World’s First Printable


HOUSTON, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 430,000 U.S. service members were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury from 2000 to 2020, and up to 35 percent of men and women in the military have suffered a concussion during combat. Now, researchers are working to modernize the standard issue military helmets, using the latest technology to save lives on the battlefield. Smart helmet

While many of us watched the action unfold on the big screen, U.S. Army Retired Veteran, Kaz Karwowski lived through it on the ground in Somalia during a firefight between U.S. troops and armed fighters.

“In Black Hawk Down, the person to my left of me got hurt then, the person to my right got hurt. I happened to just be in the right place at the right time at that point,” Karwowski remembers.

But not every soldier is so lucky and that’s why engineers at Rice University are working on the first printable smart helmet.

Paul Cherukuri, professor at the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering at Rice University, says “We employed the carbon printer to be able to print a very lightweight, strong material and then integrate our electronics into it.”

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By using a 3D printed nanomaterial exoskeleton, each helmet can be customized for the needs of each fighter.

“You can have an area that squishes very easily, or you can have more reinforcement in a specific area, and then, that is firmer,” lead design engineer, Grant Belton, demonstrates.

The lattice structure allows computers with health sensors, infrared cameras, and thermal maps to be built right into the helmet. Smart helmet

“So, if there is anything approaching the soldier that is a threat, the helmet will tell you that,” Cherukuri explains.

The sensors, like those used now in the NFL, can tell not only if the person has suffered a concussion, but also, how severe it is – and that’s just the beginning.

Electrical engineer at Rice University, Mac Carr, shows Ivanhoe the helmet and explains, “This is the Google glass. This is the actual augmented reality display. I can actually see everybody’s thermal profiles.”

Four cameras give a 360 infrared view. Artificial intelligence can detect threats and is capable of launching countermeasures.

“It’s the future and we’re trying to bring it forward,” Cherukuri adds.

This project is being funded by the U.S. Navy. Right now, the helmet is just a prototype. All of the cameras and sensors will fit inside a normal sized helmet. They hope the technology will be ready for testing in the field by the end of the year.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5063

BACKGROUND: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a sudden injury that causes damage to the brain. It may happen when there is a blow, bump, or jolt to the head. This is a closed head injury. A TBI can also happen when an object penetrates the skull. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) reported nearly 414,000 TBIs among U.S. service members worldwide between 2000 and late 2019. More than 185,000 Veterans who use VA for their health care have been diagnosed with at least one TBI. A complicating risk factor for mTBI is a person’s lifetime accumulation of TBI events. Receiving multiple concussions has been associated with greater risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).


DIAGNOSING: About 75 percent of TBIs (or 3 out of every 4) that occur each year are mild. If a person has the symptoms of TBI after a blow to the head, then the brain has been injured. Mild TBIs always involve some degree of brain injury. Symptoms of mild TBI include headache, confusion, dizziness, ringing in the ears, memory impairment, blurred vision, and behavioral changes. Moderate and severe TBI can produce more symptoms including repeated vomiting or nausea, slurred speech, weakness in arms or legs, problems thinking and learning, and death. A medical exam is the first step to diagnose a potential brain injury. Assessment usually includes a neurological exam. This exam evaluates thinking, motor function (movement), sensory function, coordination, eye movement, and reflexes. Imaging tests, including CT scans and MRI scans, cannot detect all TBIs. But tests from these FDA-regulated medical devices can help health care providers rule out some of the more serious brain injuries. In particular, these scans can detect bleeding that resulted from the traumatic injury which requires immediate medical or surgical attention.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: There has been a lot of attention paid in recent years to traumatic brain injury (TBI), particularly in light of the findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disorder linked to repetitive head trauma. New research coming out of the University of Georgia may lead to improved treatments. The technology leverages bio-manufactured exosomes. Exosomes are extracellular vesicles (EVs) bound to cell membranes and implicated in cell-to-cell communication and the transmission of disease states—they are sometimes referred to as “cargo” molecules because of the way that neural exosomes carry messages to the brain. The researchers’ bio-manufactured exosomes can be stored and dosed as an injection. Once dosed, the exosomes act as message mediators that can reset, regenerate and coordinate communication with close-by and distant cells. In rats with TBI, it has showed improved functional recovery. The technology has been licensed to Aruna Bio, one of UGA’s first Innovation Gateway startups. The technology gained the interest and financial support of the Georgia Research Alliance’s Venture Fund, which invested $13 million in common stock in July. The company is also looking to develop exosome therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Huntington’s Disease, and stroke.



Mike Williams

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Paul Cherukuri, PhD, Executive Director of Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering

Read the entire Q&A