Could this helmet technology further prevent brain damage?

90% of motorcycle fatalities are a result of injury from the neck up, ThermaHelm technology aims to reduce this

Posted: 8 December 2009
by Ben Cope

THIS VIDEO shows a new concept technology, designed to reduce the risk of brain damage in the event of an accident.

The helmet features a lining that contains a liquid, that, when triggered, cools down - just like an ice pack. The idea is that the cooling will slow down the rate at which the brain swells in the crucial minutes before medical services arrive.

The lining could be created to just fit into your current helmet. Would you fit one?

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It would be good to get some feedback from the helmet manufacturers on this because if it was that effective I would have thought they would have tried this already??

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 12:43

Its only just been developed by the university so maybe the manufactures had never thought of it before? You are right though, some feedback/more tests would be good!

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 13:24

Everyone says that about new inventions, "why did not someone think of that already?" The truth is, many things that you think must have been invented already - are not. ThermaHelm  technology is a good thing and is an obvious life-saving upgrade to the normal protection on offer. Cant wait to get it to market next year because, as it happens, I am working on it's development.

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 13:31

Unbiased then themarchitect

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 14:02

heres a thought:

Surely there are disadvantages in having an incompressible liquid surrounding your skull in the event of an impact? Also, will it effect the ability of the surrounding polystyrene to compress?

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 14:17

Maybe it should cool the brain before the accident thus preventing it occurring?

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 15:48

I'm taking a load with me next time I tour the South of France, get the missus to whack me on the lid when I get too hot.

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 16:24

Dear DonnyBra,

Good questions.

 Firstly, the gel pack has a fluid viscosity and will not impede the energy absorbsion protection afforded by the EPS (expanded polystyrene).

Sencondly, we are bikers - avid bikers. We do what we do to save lives of our brothers on wheels. Full stop. You don't particularly com across as a nay-sayer, but here is a thought: If no-one realised that upwards of 95% of motorcycle fatalities were the result of injuries from the neck up, chose to research the fact that EPS is the same insulator in the walls of EVERY SINGLE FRIDGE on the planet and heat IS your foe.

And I quote.....

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 18:04

...."There's a fundamental debate raging in the motorcycle helmet industry. In a fiberglass-reinforced, expanded-polystyrene nutshell, it's a debate about how strong and how stiff a helmet should be to provide the best possible protection.

Why the debate? Because if a helmet is too stiff it can be less able to prevent brain injury in the kinds of crashes you're most likely to have. And if it's too soft, it might not protect you in a violent, high-energy crash. What's just right? Well, that's why it's called a debate. If you knew what your head was going to hit and how hard, you could choose the perfect helmet for that crash. But crashes are accidents. So you have to guess.

To understand how a helmet protects—or doesn't protect—your brain, it helps to appreciate just how fragile that organ actually is. The consistency of the human brain is like warm Jello. It's so gooey that when pathologists remove a brain from a cadaver, they have to use a kind of cheesecloth hammock to hold it together as it comes out of the skull.

Your brain basically floats inside your skull, within a bath of cervical-spinal fluid and a protective cocoon called the dura. But when your skull stops suddenly—as it does when it hits something hard—the brain keeps going, as Sir Isaac Newton predicted. Then it has its own collision with the inside of the skull. If that collision is too severe, the brain can sustain any number of injuries, from shearing of the brain tissue to bleeding in the brain, or between the brain and the dura, or between the dura and the skull. And after your brain is injured, even more damage can occur. When the brain is bashed or injured internally, bleeding and inflammation make it swell. When your brain swells inside the skull, there's no place for that extra volume to go. So it presses harder against the inside of the skull and tries to squeeze through any opening, bulging out of your eye sockets and oozing down the base of the skull. As it squeezes, more damage is done to some very vital regions."

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 18:05


I really like this idea.

My nephew had his brain cooled after a car accident and the doctors said it significantly reduced the amount of brain damage he suffered.

Just hope they try and keep the cost down, so we can all afford one.

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 18:22

Seems a brilliant idea to me!  If it's going to save your life then it's a no-brainer (pardon the pun).

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 18:50

That is a great idea.      Brain swelling is a huge issue, and needs to be addressed.   I'm always a fan of body cooling suits, or anything that can keep the rider cool while racing.     To prevent over heating, I would put liquid ice packs in my leathers before a race.  After the race, the liquid gel back is on fire.

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 18:58

Them, 1st off CFS = Cerebrospinal fluid not cervical

Second: I have had the displeasure of dissecting several brain tumours so I am aware of the texture of the brain tissue, I am also aware of the effects of swelling on brain damage and the relationship between heat and swelling... I also think that it is a great idea to cool the head upon impact.

I will be addressing this comment:

Firstly, the gel pack has a fluid viscosity and will not impede the energy absorbsion protection afforded by the EPS (expanded polystyrene).

The issue that I have is that the cooling fluid gel pack is on the inside of the polystyrene layer. Consider the last time that you jumped belly first into a swimming pool. It hurt because the water is incompressible and the viscosity is such that it could not be displaced fast enough to allow you to decelerate slowly, your energy was transferred quickly to the water. At a high enough speed, you may as well be landing on concrete.

Given that, consider the gel pack on the inside of the helmet: this is a very incompressible fluid and given the nature of a gel, it is also very viscous. It would not be displaced fast enough and it would not be compressed during a high energy impact (i.e. high speed). It would effectively be like riding with a four layered helmet:

A hard incompressible outer layer (i.e. shell)

A soft compressible centre layer (EPS layer)

A hard incompressible inner layer (the gel during a big enough impact)

Soft foam padding

It may be that energy is simply transferred directly from the head to the polysytrene, the polystyrene compresses in the normal way and the head decelerates in the normal fashion. However, what if when the gel acts as a hard incompressible layer additional injuries are sustained as the head hits the viscous gel packs prior to compressing the EPS.

Nobody would ever suggest that we all fit hard plastic liners to our helmets however these gel packs upon impact would act in a similar fashion.

If you don't mind me asking, are you one of the researchers developing this product?

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 19:46


 I too saw the cervical spinal fluid gaff and so looked up Themarchitect ( not Thermarchitect mind ) and it is apparently a J. Preston-Powers.

A Julian Preston-Powers is on Youtube pushing the helmet technology.

A Julian Preston-Powers is also the franchise director for a cafe in Brighton :

I only offer this up as a possible reason why the terminology may have been confused...

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 22:23

Hmmmm, will this product work in the range of trackday in August to commute in February consistently and reliably? When the body experiences an acute stress reaction doesn't it already dump heat through sweating? Will this help lower it safely or take it to an extreme? I reckon that there probably isn't a team of willing volunteers ready to go and suffer brain trauma to test this product so until there's enough positive, reliable feedback I'll put my faith in me & try not to worry about having to put it into advanced medical research thanks. And use all the time saved worrying on improving my skills and riding brain.

While after 20 years riding experience I don't consider myself immortal anymore (check the irony) I feel, personally, that if I've f**ked up enough to need this kit then it's all pretty much over regardless of whether it's actually terminal. Dunno, hope I'm proved wrong and this thing saves everyone but there was a touch too much sales patter for me to stand up and want to buy it.

Posted: 08/12/2009 at 23:26

Ok, Thank you for your (mostly) well thought out comments.

RE: "are you one of the researchers developing this product?"

Answer: Yes, I am the inventor and one of several researchers. I am happy to answer questions when able. I am however off to Japan for three weeks soon and as our Google search results have gone from 289 to 18,000 in the last two weeks and website hits from <100 per day to >3500 per day, I am so inundated with work that this may be my last response. See: for more information.

RE:  "... cervical spinal fluid gaff..." and "...only offer this up as a possible reason why the terminology may have been confused..."

Answer: I, too, saw the mistake but as I was not the author (thus the words, "...and I quote..." and my use of quotation marks. Good spot though!

RE: "... given the nature of a gel, it is also very viscous . It would not be displaced fast enough."

Answer: There are two packs - one containing a small amount of water and one containing a salt in rounds white pellets that look identical to the small polystyrene balls found in bean bags and toys. It is when the two mix that the endothermic action starts and the resulting mixture turns to a gel-like viscosity.

 Our helmets will be tested Sharp, Snell, DOT, etc. and all your concerns about G-force energy distribution will be then assauged.

Thank you all for your interesting debate and if any of you would like to take part in sampling our carbon fibre ThermaHelm helmets at no charge next year, please use the contact form before December 31st 2009.

Best regards,

J. Preston-Powers

Posted: 09/12/2009 at 12:10

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Posted: 09/12/2009 at 12:16

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Posted: 09/12/2009 at 12:18

A very interesting debate.

So, what's the next step ? Is a helmet curtain airbag viable or beneficial (ie. one that supports the neck in an accident) ?

Posted: 09/12/2009 at 12:57

Sorry about the rash Carole. Seems to be a mental-dermal issue; you being so articulate and all. Keep smiling, its a simple pleasure (or a pleasure for the simple - can't remember which).

Posted: 10/12/2009 at 20:56

I would have thought it more likely that a bad crash would break your neck, (an unsupported area!) rather than cause brain damage inside a good 'lid'.

Posted: 13/12/2009 at 18:09

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