Zylon helmet strip proves its worth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway


IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe described the features of his Arai-made racing helmet in a short video for Autoweek, which made its way onto YouTube in April 2014. This helmet has highly sophisticated features, including what Hinchcliffe called an "eject system" that incorporates an inflatable plastic bag inside the helmet. The bag can be filled using an external helmet nozzle to lift the helmet off the driver's head from the inside, making it an ideal way to get the helmet off of a driver suspected of having a neck injury. Hinchcliffe also described an important addition mandated for IndyCar helmets in 2014: a strip of material that is adhered to the helmet over the visor. The strip is composed of Zylon fiber, a material long-used in anti-intrusion applications and applications requiring high strength and low weight.

Zylon supplier Toyobo Group (Osaka, Japan) describes the material as consisting of rigid-rod chain molecules of poly(p-phenylene-2,6-benzobisoxazole)(PBO). Zylon fiber applications include sailcloth and yacht ropes, tennis rackets, ski poles, and bicycle wheel spokes. The material is used in motorsport safety applications such as anti-penetration car body panels.

The Zylon strip on IndyCar helmets, Hinchcliffe said in the video, "is going to stop an object much better than just the plastic in the visor."

Hinchcliffe concluded in the video that IndyCar drivers are fortunate "to have this kind of advanced science and technology involved in keeping this thing—" he taps his own head "—in one piece."
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