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Color-changing 'blast badge' detects exposure to explosive shock waves
Date:11/29/2010

PHILADELPHIA - Mimicking the reflective iridescence of a butterfly's wing, investigators at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a color-changing patch that could be worn on soldiers' helmets and uniforms to indicate the strength of exposure to blasts from explosives in the field. Future studies aim to calibrate the color change to the intensity of exposure to provide an immediate read on the potential harm to the brain and the subsequent need for medical intervention. The findings are described in the ahead-of-print online issue of NeuroImage.

"We wanted to create a 'blast badge' that would be lightweight, durable, power-free, and perhaps most important, could be easily interpreted, even on the battlefield", says senior author Douglas H. Smith, MD, director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair and professor of Neurosurgery at Penn. "Similar to how an opera singer can shatter glass crystal, we chose color-changing crystals that could be designed to break apart when exposed to a blast shockwave, causing a substantial color change."

D. Kacy Cullen, PhD, assistant professor of Neurosurgery, and Shu Yang, PhD, associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering, were co-authors with Smith.

Blast-induced traumatic brain injury is the "signature wound" of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, with no objective information of relative blast exposure, soldiers with brain injury may not receive appropriate medical care and are at risk of being returned to the battlefield too soon.

"Diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury [TBI] is challenging under most circumstances, as subtle or slowly progressive damage to brain tissue occurs in a manner undetectable by conventional imaging techniques," notes Cullen. There is also a debate as to whether mild TBI is confused with post-traumatic stress syndrome. "This emphasizes the need for
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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Color-changing 'blast badge' detects exposure to explosive shock waves
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