Challenge III winners are developing new materials to reduce head impact forces on sports professionals, military members, and others who wear protective gear.

Head Health Challenge III Winners Named

This open competition was launched to encourage the development of advanced materials for absorbing or dissipating impact that can be used in protective gear, playing surfaces, and equipment for athletes, members of the military, and others. Each winning team gets $250,000 to advance their work in developing state-of-the-art materials.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, along with the National Football League, GE, and Under Armour, announced the five winners of Head Health Challenge III on Dec. 15. This open competition was launched to encourage the development of advanced materials for absorbing or dissipating impact that can be used in protective gear, playing surfaces, and equipment for athletes, members of the military, and others. Each winning team gets $250,000 to advance their work in developing state-of-the-art materials; an expert panel selected them from 125 entries because they met the challenge's technical criteria to maximize energy absorption and minimize momentum transfer.

An overall Head Health Challenge III winner will be selected from the five and will receive a $500,000 grand prize.

"The innovations in material science that we've seen in this challenge will have significant applications in a range of equipment that will better protect our athletes, soldiers, children, and others," said Jeff Miller, the NFL's senior vice president of Health and Safety Policy.

"The winning materials show a great deal of ingenuity in their approaches to energy absorption and have the potential to improve the next generation of protective systems," said NIST Director Willie E. May. "Our NIST experts are looking forward to working with the winning research teams as they further develop their innovative materials."

The five winners are:

  • Alba Technic, LLC (Winthrop, Maine), for a patented, shock-absorbent honeycomb material with an outer layer that diverts the energy from a fall or hit. The material is normally soft and compliant, but on impact, the outer layer changes to a hard shell to spread the energy and protect the user.
  • Charles Owen Inc. (Lincolnton, Ga.), which made cellular structures that use a stacked, origami-like design to optimize energy absorption.
  • Corsair Innovations (Plymouth, Mass.), for a textile that uses spring-like fibers to repel rotational and linear impacts. Ite is washable, breathable, wicks sweat and can be easily engineered to meet impact performance requirements, according to NIST's announcement.
  • Dynamic Research Inc. (Torrance, Calif.) and 6D Helmets LLC, which are collaborating to evolve 6D's single-impact suspension technology for use in repeated impact conditions.
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.) researchers who designed a lightweight, multi-layered composite that includes a viscoelastic material.

Head Health Challenge III is part of the larger Head Health Initiative, a four-year, $60 million collaboration between GE and the NFL, and is one of three open innovation challenges to invest up to $20 million in research and technology development to better understand, identify, and protect against brain injury.

According to NIST, the Head Health Challenge III collaboration helps implement a pledge by NIST and the Department of Commerce to invest resources to accelerate the development of materials that can protect against concussions, a pledge that was made at the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit in May 2014. For more information, visit this website.

"I'm encouraged to see the progress from our collaboration with NIST. The goal of convening the brightest engineers, scientists, and inventors was to advance and produce better materials for preventing injury, better tools for physicians, and better treatments for patients. Based on what we've seen from these five winners, we are moving in a positive direction," said Alan Gilbert, GE's director of healthymagination.

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