Current understanding of blast wave transmission and mechanism of primary traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the role of helmet is incomplete thus limiting the development of protection and therapeutic measures. Combat helmets are usually designed based on costly and time consuming laboratory tests, firing range, and forensic data. Until now advanced medical imaging and computational modeling tools have not been adequately utilized in the design and optimization of combat helmets. The goal of this work is to develop high fidelity computational tools, representative virtual human head and combat helmet models that could help in the design of next generation helmets with improved blast and ballistic protection.
We explore different helmet configurations to investigate blast induced brain biomechanics and understand the protection role of helmet by utilizing an integrated experimental and computational method. By employing the coupled Eulerian-Lagrangian fluid structure interaction (FSI) approach we solved the dynamic problem of helmet and head under the blast exposure. Experimental shock tube tests of the head surrogate provide benchmark quality data and were used for the validation of computational models. The full-scale computational NRL head-neck model with a combat helmet provides physical quantities such as acceleration, pressure, strain, and energy to blast loads thus provides a more complete understanding of the conditions that may contribute to TBI. This paper discusses possible pathways of blast energy transmission to the brain and the effectiveness of helmet systems at blast loads. The existing high-fidelity image-based finite element (FE) head model was applied to investigate the influence of helmet configuration, suspension pads, and shell material stiffness. The two-phase flow model was developed to simulate the helium-air shock wave interaction with the helmeted head in the shock tube.
The main contribution was the elucidation of blast wave brain injury pathways, including wave focusing in ocular cavities and the back of head under the helmet, the effect of neck, and the frequency spectrum entering the brain through the helmet and head. The suspension material was seen to significantly affect the ICP results and energy transmission. These findings can be used to design next generation helmets including helmet shape, suspension system, and eye protection.