Researchers awarded grant to study effects of blast exposure on battlefield personnel

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By Kim Gudeman, Coordinated Science Laboratory
January 24, 2008

  • Prof. Ravi Iyer and Speech and Hearing Science Professor Kenneth Watkin developing a battlefield helmet designed to record the effects of blast injuries in real time.
  • Sensors on the helmet and chin strap will record and analyze oxygen saturation, cortical EEG pressure, acceleration, and other vitals to give physicians a real time analysis of potential injuries.
  • These researchers hope the sensors will have applications outside of the battlefield as well.

Ravishankar K. Iyer
Ravishankar K. Iyer

ECE Professor Ravishankar K. Iyer and Speech and Hearing Science Professor Kenneth Watkin are among a group of researchers who will develop and test a modified battlefield helmet integrated with sensors to record the effects of blast injuries in real time. Using wireless communication, the data will be up-loadable to first responders using small cell phone-like devices to assess injury status.

Watkin is the Principal Investigator (PI) of the project, entitled "Helmet Integrated Nanosensors, Signal Processing, and Wireless Real Time Data Communication for Monitoring Blast Exposure to Battlefield Personnel." Iyer, the director of the Coordinated Sciences Laboratory, is the Co-PI.

The researchers will design and test a modified battlefield helmet integrated with smart nanotechnology sensors to record and analyze in real-time oxygen saturation, cortical EEG, pressure, acceleration, and other vital signs using a system embedded within helmet straps and head bands.

"The idea is to use a patch to instantly analyze body fluids and provide a quick summary to physicians," Iyer said. "This technology has far reaching implications even beyond the battlefield and could, for example, be used in remote areas to quickly predict the spread of a disease and develop containment strategies in advance of an outbreak."

Added Watkin: "Our novel approach focuses directly on helmet-based recording and on real time, transparent, highly reliable algorithms that predict the level of blast injury and simultaneously provide vital information profiles."

The researchers aim to embed sensors into supporting helmet structures and develop innovative, self-configuring computer circuitry with wireless communications in helmet straps and headbands for algorithmic processing of sensor data.

The Concept Awards program supports the exploration of a new idea or innovative concept that could give rise to a testable hypothesis. It is funded by the Department of Defense Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program of the Office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP).

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at or (217) 244-6376.

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