The BMW Group is developing new protective gear for its assembly line workers inspired by nature, including a helmet design based on the thick layer of skin on a citrus fruit called the pomelo.
BMW is heading a research project called BISS, for bio-inspired safety systems, with which it’s working with German universities as well as Adidas and safety- and sports-wear manufacturer Uvex.
The pomelo-based helmet is particularly notable: researchers noticed that these fruit sustain little damage even when the fall from a high tree thanks to a thick rind that’s also very light. BMW says the pomelo rind is auxetic, meaning it compresses and hardens under pressure, instead of giving way and becoming thinner as most materials do. It also gets thicker when stretched. BMW says it has found a way to make synthetic materials that behave similarly and offer a protective effect not previous possible.
Athletes stand to benefit similarly: Uvex is working on ski and bike helmet based on the same principle, and Adidas wants to extend the protections offered by bio-inspired materials to basketball and football players, the latter of which are particularly susceptible to concussion.
Other materials under development are based on the armour-like protection that fish and reptile scales provide and could be used in future protective gear for motorcyclists.
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