Update 08/12/2016. Recent research under the EU’s Graphene Flagship programme (http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=170781&CultureCode=en) has shown how graphene’s electrical properties can underpin much more powerful sensors.
The benefits of such sensors can be double-edged. Graphene’s ability to sense impact could be used in a very positive way – for example enabling an in-helmet sensor to activate an immediate SOS text message in the event of a crash.
At the same time however, the material’s sensing abilities can extend to monitoring of pulse rate, breathing and blood-pressure functions in the neck and brain. Such capabilities can be useful in emergency situations – however they also offer a rather more sinister potential, the opening up of a vast new array of human-body monitoring possibilities – and the risk of using such information for control.
Brussels, 1st December 2016. Momodesign of Italy have launched the first motorcycle helmet constructed with graphene. A collaboration between the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and design company Momodesign, the helmet was on display at the Composites Europe show (29/11 – 01/12) in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Graphene is about 100 times stronger than the strongest steel. Adding graphene to the external shell of a motorcycle helmet provides improved impact resistance by spreading the force of any impact over a wider area, claims the President of Momodesign, Marco Cattaneo. Graphene’s higher thermal conductivity also dissipates heat more quickly from the helmet, ensuring greater comfort for riders in hotter climates.
The new material was incorporated into the Momodesign helmet thanks to the support of the European-funded Graphene Flagship project, which helped move the idea from the lab to production within 18 months. The helmets are produced on an existing production line in northern Italy, where the graphene is applied as a spray-coating during the production process.
The Graphene Labs at IIT were established in 2014 as a world-class research centre in graphene and related materials, underpinning a shared facility for Italian manufacturing companies with an interest in graphene. The new helmet technology is the first result of the collaboration between Graphene Labs and Momodesign.
“Our aims for the future are to continue evolving as a company with the development of other graphene helmets,” said Cattaneo. The company’s next target is to try and introduce the material into the inner construction of the helmet, as well as the external shell. Researchers hope that, if successful, such a graphene-suffused helmet would be both thinner and lighter, yet offer the same level of safety.
An initial run of 3,000 helmets has been supplied to major motorcycle and design-focused showrooms across Europe. Momodesign has made no comment about another key aspect of graphene, its electrical as well as thermal conductivity. Graphene as a material has been linked to exciting new capabilities in solar cells for generating electricity, which raises the intriguing possibility that the helmet could charge yout mobile phone while you are riding the bike!
© Philip Hunt, 2016.