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The physics of explosives and blast helmets
Date:11/25/2008

guard Technologies, Inc. In order to get a sense for how traumatic a head blow from an explosion can be to someone wearing a ballistic helmet, the Allen-Vanguard team modified crash test dummies with sensors that could measure the pressure of a blast at various locations on the surface of the head. They fitted these modified dummies with standard Marine Corps lightweight helmets, and they placed them at various orientations and distances as close as few meters away from devices containing up to 5 kg of C4 (a powerful military-grade explosive).

The pressure waves these blasts generated are the same as those that someone standing near an improvised explosive device might actually experience, and the team collected data on dozens of scenarios varying the amount of explosive, mannequin orientation, and distance from the blast.

Part of what they found in the experiments was surprising, says Mott. The sensors measured variable pressures in the large explosions depending on whether they were on the front, back, or side of the mannequin relative to the explosion and whether they were covered by the helmet. An exposed sensor on the forehead, as expected, recorded its highest pressure when the blast approached the mannequin from the front. Paradoxically, the data showed that the peak pressures under the helmet were consistently on the side of the dummy's head facing away from the explosion.

To understand this result, Mott and his colleagues at NRL ran computer simulations that modeled the physics of a large blast in much finer detail than could be measured experimentally. They used a digital version of a crash dummy head, a digital representation of a helmet, and a standard set of equations to predict the motion of the propagating blast wave.

What they discovered was that a helmet can act as a focusing mechanism. If a shockwave from a blast hits a helmeted head, it can penetrate the gap between the helmet and head, travel up inside the h
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Contact: Jason Bardi
jbardi@aip.org
301-209-3091
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert  

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