UI researchers awarded Department of Defense grant to study affects of blast exposure on battlefield personnel
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 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.
Kenneth L. Watkin, professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science, 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.” Ravi K. Iyer, the director of the Coordinated Sciences Laboratory at the University of Illinois and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, 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 the 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.”
Adds 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-configurating 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).