21st Century Protection

Compared to the way the world was when I was a kid, when helmets were optional, and leather vests & blue jeans constituted protective gear, we really do have a wide option of riding garments, protectors, armor, and helmets.  The thing is, aside from the invention of some tough new fabrics like Cordura and Kevlar, protective gear remains mired in the mid-20th century.  Helmets are still essentially a fiberglass shell with a styrofoam backing, while crash protection is some padding–even if the padding is gel–behind a hard plastic cover.

But in the past several months, that’s really started to change, and some new products are about to appear that constitute a real step forward in applying 21st century materials science to protective gear.

Del Rosario Helmet
Del Rosario Helmet

This helmet, designed by Del Rosario, is a completely new breakthrough that incorporates a radically new approach in helmet design.

The first layer of protection are gel inserts intended to to eliminate vibrations and other small forces that current helmet technology utterly ignores. While these kinds of forces are unlikely to cause injury, they do cause fatigue and discomfort.

The second layer of protection is a multi-layered laminate liner. Capable of flexing, crushing and delaminating, this liner can deal with a wider range of forces than a traditional styrofoam liner, which can only crush. Through the controlled destruction of this layer, a lower level of force reaches the helmet’s main level of impact absorption.

A carbon frame of arched members composes the Del Rosario helmet’s main safety mechanism. Through the magical power of science, theses arches can be precisely tailored to flex or break in a predictable manner, coping with both high and low energy loads.

Also notice the non-traditional, extremely aerodynamic lines.

Knox Kinesis Armor
Knox Kinesis Armor

Knox Labs has created the Kinesis line of armor, which incorporates a floating shell instead of the fixed shell in current armor offerings.

Kinesis is a revolutionary technology that mimics one of the most successful and natural safety systems which occurs in the human head. When the head is subjected to an oblique impact, the brain can slide along a membrane on the inner surface of the skull, which reduces the forces transmitted to the brain.

Similarly, Knox has created the Kinesis protector which has a ‘floating’ shell. When this is subjected to an oblique impact the shell moves relative to the core protector, creating an alternate load path for the energy. This significantly reduces the force transmitted to the body part in question.

But, that’s just the outer shell.  There’s new goodness on the way from d3O labs for the gel backing, as well, in somewthing called “shear thickening gel.

d3o Armor
d3o Armor

Shear Thickening gel is soft and pliable as can be, right up to the point it is subjected to a sharp impact, at which point, the bonds between the molecules harden, instantly stiffening the material to distribute the impact. FirstGear is already implementing a line of motorcycle clothing that incorporates 3dO armor.

It’s nice to see such progress on all fronts after 50 years of stagnation in protection design.