Simple idea could revolutionise safety devices

09/07/05

A simple but clever idea by a Bath engineer could revolutionise the way that safety devices across the world are constructed.

Dr Fayek Osman's new concept could mean that devices such as train buffers, safety barriers and aircraft undercarriages will be much more efficient and cheaper.

Dr Osman, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the University of Bath, UK, has developed a concept for devices that can absorb enormous impact and yet still remain intact so that they can be used again.

Normally the impact of a crash on a safety device such as a train buffer will deform it so that it cannot be used again and must be replaced. Even ordinary stress on devices that absorb less dramatic impacts, such as aeroplane undercarriages, can wear them out quickly.

Dr Osman's idea is that safety devices should be as simple as a piece of metal in a channel with a bend in it. During a crash, impact forces the metal down the channel, and the energy of the crash is absorbed by the metal as it travels around the bend towards the end of the channel.

The channel can then be turned around so that the next impact strikes the metal at the end of the channel and forces it back to its original starting point.

The devices should be cheap to make and would require no replacement after an impact. Their uses could include shock absorbers in artillery pieces, car bumper mounts, joints in bridges and cranes and shock absorbers in buildings in earthquake zones.

Another use would be to absorb physical efforts in sports equipment, and a team of Dr Osman's students recently came third, winning a 1,000 prize, in the Bath Business Plan Competition for a plan to develop the technology for a new type of 'weightless' physical training equipments. A similar plan came second in a competition at Loughborough University.

Dr Osman is now seeking commercial backing for his idea, which he believes will save industry millions of pounds world-wide once his devices are widely introduced.

"The overall concept is simple, but it depends on a thorough knowledge of how metals behave when they are forced around a corner," said Dr Osman.

"What makes devices based on this principle so effective is that they require no maintenance and can be used again and again they are much cheaper to manufacture too.

"I think that these devices will be a great cost-saving to industry and can be used in an enormous range of areas from aircraft to artillery, and cars to bridges."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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