Researcher Commercializing Shield Material with Applications to Reduce Concussion Risk

A New Mexico State University researcher and an engineering graduate student have partnered with Arrowhead Center’s student business incubator, Studio G, to further develop a protective shield technology that could help reduce concussions and even save lives. The partnership is supported by a $50,000 award from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program.

The technology is based on a damage-trap material interface researched and developed by Roy L. Xu, a research associate professor in NMSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. In 2002, while working on his doctorate thesis research at the California Institute of Technology, Xu discovered a very thin interface bonding that could stop impact damage of layered brittle polymers subjected to an impact speed up to about 100 miles per hour.

“Bullet proof materials such as Kevlar usually have a low resistance to a sharp knife,” Xu said.

The damage-trap material interface, or DTMI, when combined with other polymers, can mitigate that weakness – and is light and cost-effective enough for use in shields for backpacks and cases for laptops and tablets.

Motivated by concern about violent incidents in the news, including shootings at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as a knife attack in China, Xu saw an opportunity to improve on the $300 to $400 bulletproof backpacks currently available.

“I visited Virginia Tech only one week before the deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history,” Xu said. “I visited the building and the same professor who had saved student lives.”

The researcher and father of an elementary-aged child calls the interface material a “magic adhesive.”

When used as part of a hybrid material with bulletproof materials like Kevlar and knife-proof materials like polycarbonate aluminum, the DTMI can successfully stop impact damage, increasing the effectiveness of the hybrid material.

NMSU chemical engineering graduate student Brian Patterson is working with the technology through Studio G, and pursued the I-Corps funding opportunity with Xu and Studio G Director Kramer Winingham. The goal is to commercialize the lightweight and affordable material.

“Business ideas that are presented through this program have a direct impact on research and development and are closely related,” Patterson said. “Therefore, it’s important to understand the business components as they dictate the R&D direction.”

The team interviewed 100 potential customers to gain a better understanding of the market for their technology.

The I-Corps program and activities prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broaden the impact of their projects. One of the I-Corps objectives is to have an entrepreneurial student who shows potential in business and technology handle the commercialization.

“I-Corps is a tremendous program that teaches students how to be entrepreneurs,” Winingham said. “Brian, as the entrepreneurial lead for our team, has done an outstanding job and has learned a lot. Based on his efforts, I believe Dr. Xu’s technology is significantly closer to market.”

The DTMI material also has applications in football helmets and could help reduce concussion risk for players. The helmet shell materials with DTMI designs could increase impact-energy absorption at least 130 percent, compared to the current shell materials.

“A key finding during the I-Corps program was the opportunity for an advanced helmet shell design that could reduce concussions and adapt to other helmet technologies,” Winingham said. “This appears to be the best initial application for Dr. Xu’s technology.”

As a result of the I-Corps program and the helmet shell design, Xu has been invited to submit a full-technical proposal, in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, to the third NFL Head Health Challenge, an open competition to advance materials that better absorb or dissipate energy.

“Dr. Xu’s technology offers some exciting capabilities,” said Winingham. “Our challenge was identifying the best use for those capabilities, and through Brian’s hard work and resourcefulness, we identified the most promising applications and gained a lot from the I-Corps program.”

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Cheerleader Fails to Clear Gross Negligence Standard in Concussion Case

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a brief synopsis of one of several case summaries in Concussion Litigation Alert. For details on this summary and others, please subscribe at

A state appeals court affirmed a lower court’s ruling, granting summary disposition to a school district and coach, who were sued after a cheerleader suffered a concussion while performing a stunt.

In so ruling, the panel found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate gross negligence on the part of the defendants. For example, the coach had provided weeks of training on the stunt prior to the injury.KENTUCKY2010 064

The plaintiff was a ninth grader when she sustained an injury. After being hired by the school district, her coach became a member of the state high school athletic association and attended meetings and camps regarding cheerleading techniques, methods and safety. As the head coach, she admitted she was responsible for monitoring the safety of her players, according to the court.

Tryouts for the fall cheerleading teams occur in the early spring. To make the teams, players are required to complete various activities and skills. An assessment of each player’s activities and skills at tryouts could require between 20 and 45 minutes, and each coach completed an assessment sheet with comments. If selected, team members would practice two to three times a week beginning in April, and then attend a summer cheerleading camp.

The coach testified that to promote safety, her teams would begin each practice with 45 minutes of conditioning and strength training, which included stretching, running, sit-ups, push-ups, hand stands, weightlifting in circuits, and jumping. She testified that she relied on the association cheerleading manual, which explains how to perform every maneuver. She would explain the maneuver step-by-step to players, and when possible, more experienced players would also demonstrate the maneuver. She would teach the players the maneuvers in “progression,” from basic to more intricate or difficult. …

(For the rest of the summary, please subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter.)

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Concussion Trailer Is Out

Sony Pictures has release the trailer for the movie Concussion, the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu and his work in exposing the concussion crisis in the NFL. Staring Will Smith, the movie hits theaters around Christmas.

Here’s the trailer:

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