A breakthrough in motorbike safety helmet design has been made by a researcher at RMIT University in Australia, offering the promise of much greater comfort for people in hot climates such as Vietnam.
The research by Dr Sinnappoo Kanesalingam enables the temperature inside a helmet to be lowered by up to 9 degrees Celsius using innovative textile materials, reducing heat stress and making headgear much more comfortable to wear.According to Dr Kanesalingam, the breakthrough will offer benefits for other types of helmet as well, including those worn on construction sites. The temperature reduction breakthrough will address one of the major reasons that safety helmets are not worn at all times - discomfort from heat and sweat.
Dr Kanesalingam says he has found that by using innovative textiles such as Polymeric Water Absorbent Textile (PWAT) materials and Phase Change Materials (PCM) to line helmets, the temperature inside can be substantially lowered.
"The PWAT material provides a drop in temperature of 8 to 9 degrees Celsius within the helmet, while PCM gives temperature drops of 3 to 4 degrees Celsius," he said.
According to Dr Kanasalingam, a low weight and environmentally friendly textile helmet liner made of one of these materials can be incorporated within the helmet without changing the basic helmet design and without risk to health.
"The liner can also be used in new helmets, and can be adapted to use in other areas such as construction sites where helmets are mandatory," he said. "In tropical countries such as Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, helmets are often perceived as uncomfortable and restrictive to use, so finding a solution to this problem to minimise head injuries in accidents is important."
As well as providing safety from injury in the event of an accident, the inventor expects that reducing heat stress may also help reduce the number of motorcycle accidents as well, with riders better able to concentrate on the road more and make less misjudgements.
"I hope my findings will persuade motorcycle riders to wear the cooler helmets, which will ultimately result in fewer accidents, hospitalisations and trauma and reduce the cost to society of motorcycle accidents," Dr Kanesalingam said.
The inventor expects a production model of a helmet including his liner may sell for an initial cost of around 1.5 million dong, and less for children's helmets – around 800,000 to 1 million dong. He expects the cost could be brought down to around 400,000-700,000 dong if produced in large quantities.
Dr Kanesalingam is interested in talking to helmet manufacturers in a number of countries including Vietnam, with a view to bringing it to the market within the next 12 months.
"We're very pleased about this research breakthrough," RMIT International University Vietnam's President Professor Merilyn Liddell said today. "From a Vietnamese point of view, we see the big challenge now will be in getting this innovation to market at the right price and with strict quality control.
"We will do what we can here in Vietnam to help facilitate the steps that will be needed to turn a great invention into a practical reality in the marketplace, to the benefit of both business and consumers in Vietnam."