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Cardboard bike helmet could revolutionize head safety


December 11, 2012

Formula 1 team Force India is currently implementing the Kranium technology into its own helmet design

Formula 1 team Force India is currently implementing the Kranium technology into its own helmet design

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As highlighted by the cardboard bicycle, cardboard can be a surprisingly versatile manufacturing material in the right hands. Further proof of this comes via the Kranium: a bicycle helmet constructed from cardboard and designed by Royal College of Art student Anirudha Surabhi, which promises to be 15 percent lighter than standard helmets, while absorbing up to three times the impact energy during a collision.

Ani was inspired to create the Kranium following a nasty fall from his bicycle which caused a cracked helmet and minor concussion. Taking this experience as a cue to design a better helmet, he looked toward the animal kingdom, and the woodpecker in particular.

The Kranium is waterproof, and boasts some green credentials, due to it being manufactured from recycled paper

The designer was struck by the woodpecker’s ability to withstand repeated heavy impact, thanks to the bird’s unique corrugated cartilage structure which separates beak from skull – this concept gave rise to the Kranium’s honeycomb cardboard structure dubbed "Dual Density Honey Comb Board," or D2.

While some bicycle riders may balk at the thought of trusting their head to something as seemingly fragile as cardboard, the Kranium boasts some rather impressive safety figures. These were enough to secure the interest of Formula 1 team Force India, which is incorporating the Kranium technology into its own helmet design.

Rather than remaining completely rigid, the helmet is designed to allow a degree of flexing in order to help absorb impact force, of which it can withstand up to three times as much as typical expanded polystyrene (EPS) helmets, while remaining 15 percent lighter. These figures derive from tests conducted by Ani and his collaborators, in addition to safety testing laboratories such as Germany’s Technischer Überwachungs-Verein and Head Protection Evaluations, based in the UK.

Following two years spent in development, the Kranium is currently scheduled to be released sometime in December, 2012, price and availability TBA.

The video below details the process of bringing the Kranium to market.

Source: Kranium Design via EcoChunk

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Don't Sweat The Technique. hopefully waterproof from inside!


Modern bike helmets channel air over the top of your head. It is actually cooler to wear the helmet than not, as long as your moving. This helmet looks hot. Perhaps they can produce a new design to address this issue.


My spouse is an avid biker; we live in Vienna. My spouse takes her bike to work, where she is a researcher and medical doctor, at the university. I admire her commitment to a greener world - but, I remain concerned for her welfare while riding.

Cars are not necessarily prepared for bicyclists, even though we do have bike paths. We are not quite there yet, in Vienna.

One of the greatest places I have been that protects bicyclists is in Holland, for me, specifically Amsterdam.

This leads me to you, Anirudha Surabhi: I am constantly looking for a better helmet and I love your thinking and ingenuity. I also found your correlation of the woodpecker's design, very interesting.

I wanted to simply say thank you. Bicycle helmets saves lives.

Riki Cheever

Awesome invention, brilliant use of science! Congratulations, I will buy it!

Lawrence Klein

ver interesting technology for sure.... however... to be succesful in that market... the helmet also must cool the head as mentioned before... maybe it does... it just doesn't look like it.

Bill Kniegge

I'll bet a design using two shells, one flush with the head and one on the exterior with the space in between simply stuffed with crumpled paper would have similar characteristics. The neat thing about paper crumples is that they give, but they offer more resistance the more they are crumpled. The crumpled material need not be paper, but it serves as an obvious model.

Victor Engel

When does the motorcycle version come out?


Seems like a brilliant idea as long as it doesn't disintegrate when moist through sweat or rain (we seem to get a lot of that here in England).


One good thing for this design is that it will make custom fitting of oversized heads (like mine) a cinch, just send a measurement of your noggin and the laser will cut it out perfectly.

Edwin Austin

Great Invention. I love that the wood pecker was a guide.

What happens to the helmet after an impact? Does the 'cardboard" structure need to be replaced? Do you throw away the entire helmet?


Glad to see the waterproofing issue was addressed (5:35 in the video), that was my only concern.

Brett Lewis

This looks like a great design. I think you should look into developing this product for Soccer Players and American Football. Concussions are becoming a great concern in contact sports now. Evidence has shown that many more concussions occur and are of greater harm than was previously believed. This product or a similar one could go a long way to helping prevent or reduce these injuries. The cardboard liner could be made for quick replacement to keep cost down on damaged helmets.


Superb demonstration Anirudha. Hope to see the helmets on the market really soon. Congratulations on a well thought out product d'-)


Stronger. Safer. Lighter. Greener. Really good.

Bill Ryte
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