UMass Dartmouth researchers are using an old textile manufacturing method to produce a new protection against concussions—and the National Football League and others are interested.
The NFL’s Head Health Challenge 3 program has granted $250,000 to test Flocked Energy Absorbing Material (FEAM) technology, which was invented by UMassD bioengineering professors Yong Kim and Armand Lewis, with contributions by mechanical engineering professor Vijaya B. Chalivendra.
Developing materials to improve impact protection
Corsair Innovations, a start-up company formed to commercialize UMass Dartmouth research, received the funding. Corsair’s focus is on developing new materials to improve the impact protection and fit of clothing and gear used by athletes, law enforcement, industrial workers, and the military.
The Head Health Challenge 3 was founded by the NFL, with participation by Under Armour, GE, and the federal government’s National Institute of Standards & Technology. This program was created to better understand and diagnose mild traumatic brain injury and to improve padding materials to protect the head and body.
Radical new form of padding
Its inventors say that FEAM is a radical, new form of padding composed entirely of textile, not foam, for helmets, body armor, and other wearable protection. FEAM is made using a mature manufacturing process called flocking, but in a novel way. The resulting material contains what resemble millions of tiny springs, which absorb energy by compressing and deflecting the force. The padding is breathable, washable, and more comfortable to wear than foam. Lewis, a 1953 graduate of the New Bedford Textile Institute, a precursor institution to UMass Dartmouth, and Kim have recently been awarded a patent on FEAM.
Kim, Lewis, and Chalivendra are also involved in evaluating FEAM for military use for the Department of Defense. Additionally, Kim was recently awarded a 2016 UMass President’s Science and Technology Initiative Fund grant to establish a new Research Center for Biomedical Injury Protection and Mitigation Structures at UMassD.