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Helmets inspired by brain fluid to offer better impact protection


March 1, 2012

MIPS is designed to decrease forces on the brain during oblique impacts

MIPS is designed to decrease forces on the brain during oblique impacts

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Inspired by the fluid that wraps your brain in a protective, wet blanket, Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), which is the name of both the technology and the company behind it, claims to offer superior protection for your head. Major helmet manufacturers are starting to turn on to what is self-hailed as the "next generation" of helmet design.

The system developed by the Stockholm-based company originated at Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology and Karolinska Institute and is based on concepts pulled from physiology. The human brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which allows it to slide around inside the skull upon head impact and protect it from direct impact. MIPS helmets don't use fluid, but sandwich a layer of low-friction material between the outer shell and the inner liner. This material allows the shell to move around in relation to the liner, thereby limiting the forces passed straight through to your head. The same way your brain "floats" in the cerebrospinal fluid, your head floats inside the helmet.

The MIPS system was designed specifically for oblique impacts where the helmet hits the ground at an angle. According to company research, the mobile shell protects the head more effectively on these types of falls. In fact, its testing indicates that MIPS technology can reduce the forces to the brain by up to 40 percent compared to other helmets on a 45-degree angle impact. Its vertical-impact protection is comparable to traditional helmets.

MIPS claims that standard helmet design is concerned only with vertical impacts. According to its literature, helmet designers drop helmets vertically onto the flat ground to determine how well they absorb impact. Of course, not all falls result in your head dropping straight down into the ground. In fact, we'd bet that most falls involve the very type of oblique impacts that MIPS seeks to protect against. If you think about falling off a bike or on ski slope, there's a good chance you aren't going to land squarely on your head, but will knock your head at an angle.

MIPS licenses its technology to a variety of major helmet manufacturers, including Scott, Red and POC. The technology is currently used in bike, snow and equestrian helmets, and the company has plans to expand into other types of helmets. MIPS CEO Niklas Steenberg says that the company hopes that its technology will eventually be analogous to airbags in the auto industry, a "non-negotiable ingredient" that is a part of all products in its industry.

It looks like the classic foam bucket is becoming a thing of the past. We recently covered Vaco12 helmet technology, which aims to spread impact out across a three-dimensional array of beads. A couple years ago we saw the Lazer Superskin, a sort of reverse-MIPS that put a low-friction membrane on the outside of the helmet to decrease chance of injuries.

The video below shows how the MIPS technology works.

Source: MIPS

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

This is nothing new and MIPS is not the only company using this approach. The origins actually date back to 1960's and the first probes sent to land on the moon where a fluid inside the case distributed the impact of the landing and then was evacuated from the probe.

The trick is adapting this approach to a helmet that is comfortable enough to be worn and not so restrictive of the user's movement or cooling air flow over the head as to preclude their use. The first generation of bicycle helmets from Bell had the latter defect. A rider could choose either a possible increased risk of brain damage without the helmet or the certainty of heat stroke with the helmet.


This is also better combined with rapid production techniques for custom fitted helmets. We all have distinct head shapes, this shape is analysed and the inner lining is manufactured as an exact fit, including a further inner breathable layer. On impact, not only does the external shell move and deflect force, the fluid inside distributes pressure evenly across the entire scull, and also exerting an outward opposing force. One size does not fit all, custom helmets are the way forward.

Dawar Saify

This is really good design. There are 15 sizes of Helmets measuring 500 mm to 640 mm with difference of 10 mm as per Indian Standard. There is global ignorance on size and fitting of Helmets. To achieve proper fitting a simple Head Measuring device like Turkish Cap , Frustum of a Cone is required.By putting the cap one can measure the size. The variation in shape of Human Head based on Cephalic Inedx is to be standardised. The present testing of Helmets by Drop Test on an Anvil does not have any relevance to drop in actual use. Economic solution lies with Standard outer shell in 15 sizes to be fitted with Energy Absorbent Protective Padding in 15 sizes and 4 major Head Shapes for close fitting. In Asia the motorcycle is used for personal transport where people are not ready to spend much on Helmet. The ignorance is equally prevailing in Army,Air Force and Police Force about size and fitting.

Gyan Prakash
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