Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say they have developed a color-changing polymer that can detect the amount of force sustained and hope to implement the material into football helmets to help provide a visual aid to diagnose concussions.
The researchers presented their findings at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston this week, according to Science Daily. Researcher Shu Yang says a patch on helmets that changes color and is force responsive would help athletic trainers, coaches and players.
“If the force was large enough, and you could easily tell that, then you could immediately seek medical attention,” she says.
Yan says the material is lightweight and does not require a power source, making it attractive for equipment at some point in the future. The material is made of polymer crystals that were heated to form a mold in the desired pattern.
“We were able to change the color consistently with certain forces,” Yang says. She cited adding the force of an 80 mph car running into a brick wall turned the crystals from red to green. A speeding truck hitting the same wall turned the crystal to purple.
“This force is right in the range of a blast injury or a concussion,” Yang told Science Daily.
The next step is to develop materials to determine how quickly the force is applied, a key step in helping to determine concussions.