In an effort to better understand and protect against concussions, a team of University of Pennsylvania researchers has developed a new material that changes color based on how hard it is hit.
Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries caused by hard hits on the playing field have been linked to dementia and memory loss. However, it is not always easy to immediately tell whether a player has taken a dangerous hit. As a result, some players continue to participate in activities that put them at risk.
As Medical News Today reports, the newly developed material can be used in protective equipment, such as football helmets, and can act as a visual indicator of force applied to a specific area. The degree to which the color changes indicates how much force the material absorbed.
“If the force was large enough, and you could immediately tell that, then you could immediately seek medical attention,” says study co-author and researcher Shu Yang.
The researchers used self-assembling polymers, which under varying circumstances connect to form crystals of different colors.
“The film can show the color change depending on how much and how quickly the force is applied,” says co-author Younghyun Cho.
Different amounts of force yield different color changes. Yang says that forces that will create a color change range from a bomb blast to a concussion-causing hit on a playing field.
While initial testing on the material has yielded encouraging results, more work remains to be done. Yang hopes to alter the material so that it can also indicate how quickly force is applied, as this can affect the extent of damage dealt to the brain.