Bone-Crushing Experiments Yield Better Protective Gear

No sample is safe in Nikhil Gupta's Composite Materials and Mechanics Lab at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Whether it's a small nugget of rabbit bone or a piece of industrial protective foam, all are bound for a custom-built compression machine designed to study how materials split and shatter.

Gupta, a materials scientist and mechanical engineer, and his team capture each compression with a high-speed camera that records over 10,000 frames per second to study every crack and splinter. The results are critical — they may ultimately help physicians better diagnose and treat injuries and aid engineers as they improve protection for military and civilian armor, including helmets.

Along with collaborator Paulo Coelho, a New York University College of Dentistry materials scientist (and a dentist who specializes in surgical research well beyond the jaw bones), Gupta has pioneered research that reveals surprising insights about the effect of compression on bones, and about the limitations of the foams used to protect them in helmets and armor. 

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