Explosive Testing of Boots - Making them safer

#1
Ben from This Tribe has taken a keen interest on how to improve equipment safety and last week this led him to Imperial Blast, a team in Imperial College London who blow up boots and lower legs for a living. The research they've done has shown significant differences in the protection offered by existing mil boots (they've most recently been testing Meindls) and they believe that a lot more can be done to help protect the GS foot from (under vehicle) explosive blasts.

If anyone has been involved in related studies or would like to comment then we'd like to hear from you.

Ben's blog post (from the new This Tribe blog)

Last week I visited Imperial Blast at Imperial College where I met Professor Anthony Bull and Drs Adam Hill and Spyros Masouros. The Imperial Blast Research Group is addressing the fact that in modern conflicts over 70% of injuries are caused by explosions, and in Afghanistan IEDs are responsible for the majority of fatalities. Imperial Blast are seeking to identify kit design improvements - especially for boots - that reduce the risk and severity of injury arising from blasts. Here is an image of their main test rig which can simulate major under-vehicle detonations, and below is a slow motion video of it being used to test a boot (and leg). They have already published some of their findings.

imperial-blast-test-rig3.jpg

We're following closely and already have some design improvements that we are working on to improve both safety and comfort, but we know that many heads are better than one so we're inviting everyone to contribute ideas to improve the safety and comfort of military and outdoor equipment and we will do what we can to source, or if need be develop, equipment which keeps you safer and more comfortable!

[video=youtube;my4RI1-Vo90]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my4RI1-Vo90[/video]

If you have any suggestions you would like to share please add them as comments below here - we're looking for simple quick wins as well as design improvements, so please join in.
 
#2
Call me naive but what protection does a pair of boots give you when your knees are being forced through your skull?

Regarding boot design a key thing for me is a grippy sole and a heel. Vibram seem to be cornering the market at the moment. A good structure to the outer sole and a grippy rubber compound, especially on wet rock for example.

Good luck with your research.
 
#3
Call me naive but what protection does a pair of boots give you when your knees are being forced through your skull?
Not much.

But for the many poor ******* with compound fractures of the heel and ankle - maybe quite a lot....
 
#4
You may as well ask a motorcyclist what protection his boots might offer when he slams head on into a car at 120. The answer of course is sweet FA. However if he survives the impact / misses the car, then he hopes that his gucci leathers, gloves and boots are not just fashion accessories, but hold him together until he gets to hospital, minimise the damage and don't actually cause damage. The same holds with military protective clothing. An improvement could be as simple as removing metal eyelets that turn into shrapnel.
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
great idea and well done - but surely nothing will deal with percussive shock shattering the limbs like the vid clip though will it? unless they can make a stabilised rigid armour.

I wonder if you could make something opposite to the cornflour type stuff they are making body armour out of. Didnt someone do a thing where they slung bottled water under the vehicle to see if will disperse the shock like when that crazy explosives geezer we have (sidney allford) blew up his concrete swimming pool. bit like reactive armour going bang to stop hesh rounds.

how about chivers jelly - thats rigid till you smack it with a cricket bat?

daft I know but you get the idea :)
 
#6
Best of luck with your research.


The current development of motorcycle boots, and this is in relation to top of the range motocross and road racing lower limb armour is the exo-skeleton type arrangement.These system tends not to be limited to just the foot and especially when it involves extreme sport such as the Dakar/desert racers ( for example ) the system continues up the leg incorporating the knee in a full brace and protector and then futher up onto the lower to mid thigh.Various areas have been identified over the years as critical injury points and these have been concentrated on, rather than trying to completely armour the lower limb.

Effectively you have a full shock absorbing brace that greatly assists the correct articulation of the lower limb in a smash, ranging from mid thigh to the sole of the foot.

They are lightweight, very strong,articulate well and surprisingly comfy .....however, they were never designed or expected to be used for extended walking off the bike.I can testify to their effectivness, having had a couple of big tumbles off road and survived intact ( mostly )

Forcefield ( TM )

This is another take on the armour problem that had been addressed by a British company that makes the forcefield armour, it is a multi-layer setup of very well ventilated, body forming, lightweight layers of a reactive type foam rubber....it stiffens on impact and spreads the force over a far greater area.As stated, this armour is soft and pliable rather than rigid and hard. I have used this armour when travelling in the Australian Outback in summer and North Africa and it is the only armour that can be worn comfortably in high temperatures that I have used.( also the only armour that can be re-used after a smash that i know of )

This is Just food for thought, as motorcycling is obviously a mile apart from what the military are faced with, being designed for blunt/sharp high impacts rather than ballistic threat.
 
#8
I remember people used to question the sanity of a small ceramic plate on the body armour we were issued in NI. But for the guy who was hit smack on the plate by the round from an M16 it made all the difference.

Keep up the research, I hope you get good results and that they are rapidly introduced.
 
#9
Why add stuff to the boot when you can add to the vehicle?
 
#10
Why add stuff to the boot when you can add to the vehicle?
I've already run this idea past the team at Imperial College. It's outside the area of their study, but unless anyone can highlight any dangers associated with this approach I would certainly recommend using any (ideally non-flamable) material that can provide some reduction in the shock effect to the foot. This could be as simple as cutting up spare cardboard and adding a layer (if there is enough cardboard and space in the vehicle footwell). Or spare gym matting etc.

We're also very interested in design improvements that could mitigate the effects of blast for dismounted infantry too.

Thanks for all comments so far - keep 'em coming!
 
#11
I've already run this idea past the team at Imperial College. It's outside the area of their study, but unless anyone can highlight any dangers associated with this approach I would certainly recommend using any (ideally non-flamable) material that can provide some reduction in the shock effect to the foot. This could be as simple as cutting up spare cardboard and adding a layer (if there is enough cardboard and space in the vehicle footwell). Or spare gym matting etc.
Before anyone considers doing this somewhere dangerous, I would definitely recommend NOT doing this.

Trying to mitigate the effects of shock is a dangerous business, and if you get it wrong, it is entirely possible to amplify the effect seen by the human body.
 
#12
Before anyone considers doing this somewhere dangerous, I would definitely recommend NOT doing this.

Trying to mitigate the effects of shock is a dangerous business, and if you get it wrong, it is entirely possible to amplify the effect seen by the human body.
Fair enough. I'm certainly not claiming that any DIY solution is better than nothing! There is work being done which suggests that sacrificial and/or absorbent materials can help in many circumstances. For example see slide 9 of this presentation on Protecting Soldiers. While an optimal solution certainly requires careful material selection and design, I think ooooh matron's point is worth considering, and while the boffins are working on it there are probably some safe steps that people on the ground can take to mitigate the risk in the meantime. Of course all suggestions that aren't backed up with full testing carry an element of risk and some could be dangerous - the question is do they offer enough advantages to make the risk worthwhile?

Do you think that there is a specific danger associated with adding absorbent matting to vehicle footwells, or a more general risk of equipment "enhancements" that could have unintended consequences?
 
#13
Fair enough. I'm certainly not claiming that any DIY solution is better than nothing! There is work being done which suggests that sacrificial and/or absorbent materials can help in many circumstances. For example see slide 9 of this presentation on Protecting Soldiers. While an optimal solution certainly requires careful material selection and design, I think ooooh matron's point is worth considering, and while the boffins are working on it there are probably some safe steps that people on the ground can take to mitigate the risk in the meantime. Of course all suggestions that aren't backed up with full testing carry an element of risk and some could be dangerous - the question is do they offer enough advantages to make the risk worthwhile?
The best thing the average user can do to mitigate the risk is:
1) Maintain good vehicle admin to minimise the risk of impact by secondary debris (e.g. unsecured ammo etc)
2) Unless there is an operational reason not to, make use of the restraint systems provided (stories of people being blown clear of the blast are factually incorrect)

Do you think that there is a specific danger associated with adding absorbent matting to vehicle footwells, or a more general risk of equipment "enhancements" that could have unintended consequences?
Both really.

Specifically with reference to 'absorbant' materials, the physics is often misunderstood. A system which is too soft can 'bottom out' quickly under load, thus increasing the dynamic loading of the body.
As a simple example, imagine you are sat in an Intercity train, which acclerates from rest to 125mph - whilst you notice the acceleration, it won't do you any harm. Now imagine you are stood at one end of a carriage on a pair of (hypothetical) rollerskates - as they can only transmit a limited ammount of force, you do not acclerate at the same rate as the train, and eventually the rear end of the carriage catches up with you, and hits you at high speed. Ouch!

When considering perfectly elastic materials, there is also the phenomenon of accoustic impedance mismatch, in which is is possible to couple the shock more ideally to whatever is sat on top of it.



Suffice to say there is plenty of reserach going on in this area - both at Imperial, and elsewhere - and if anything genuinely useful can be done, it will be.
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
brain dump mode so I apologise in advance.

when they air dropped food to malta in ww2 I seem to remember the hardest part was not breaking the eggs! something similar in the approach might work like standing on a few sheets of bubble wrap or the way they use sacrificial elements to absorb shock like cardboard boxes during big vehicle stunt or the tubs of water the americans put in front of motorway barriers and hard points like bridges. sacrificial foam like oasis or very cheap styrofoam might work for testing purposes a sprung floor would be heavier. current angled hull designs are supposed to deflect the blast to save the vehicle as much as protect the occupants but until they stick bodies inside to test the shock resistance they wont get what they want. helmets are a hard shell with soft absorbing liner then the skull, cycle helmets are often a light shell then foam then sponge all designed to break and distort taking the anger away from the impact. they did something similar when they designed the blackhawk as its main brief was occupant survival. a good comparison is the figures regards SUV safety which came out a while ago disproving the perception, instead of being safer they tend to take more of the impact because they are heavier, whereas a lighter vehicle would often be pushed and deflected away with a lot more damage but the distress also took out the force of the impact. so instead of jackal we want kevlar reliant robins!

I wonder what a shocked angled plate under a vehicle would do? use a non rigid fixing under vehicle so it will move upwards compressing a lightweight sacrificial medium or springs while still deflecting blast (I think the abrams has something like that in its turret crew compartment). I would have thought it has been tested allready but as mil vehicles are made by welders and men in glasses maybe not. electrical goods are packed the way are they are for similar reasons but I'm not advocating the worlds first kevlar and cardboard apc - might work though, civvy vehicles have crumple zones and regenerating bumpers, I wonder how the tech would adapt :)

a good comparison is the armour vs missile tech they came up with, sloped plate, chobham, reactive armour and lately bar armour. the first two just designed to stop penetration the second to dissipate the shock/projectile before it gets to penetrate.

if you make the boot stronger you just make sure you either lose less bits of the foot but turn it to mush inside the boot or it ends up shearing off where the protection ends which takes you back to the exoskeleton stuff they are working on. drop an egg wrapped in tape and you get smashed egg held together with tape. wrap it in tape then foam then put in a box and it might stay together. You have to stop the shock getting to the boot and the wearer rather than just work on the boot I reckon. Otherwise the boot has to be part of a whole protective system which wont protect against shock but will cut down on the trauma and bleed out. Unless you try the airbag type of protection they are playing about with in motorbikes, putting the airbags in the clothing rather than the bike turning you into a big zorb ball. They allready have similar tech for avalanche clothing which is meant to both protect and make an air pocket.

I remember watching new reel footage of allied tanks covered in sandbags to protect against panzerfaust and hesco works in a similar shell + soft filling way to absorb shock. tennis balls too use the same principle and make a good test medium.

Dismounted you'll allways have trouble keeping the troops safe, even if you stick ground penetrating radar on a remote vehicle you get operator lag just like the xray machines at the airports now. So some form of automatic remote control sensor platform buggy if you cant blow the shit out of everything before you set foot in it like the US are doing now. If we get good at finding pathside ieds then they will just shift to drainpipe shotguns, giant claymores or blast bombs unfortunately.

just out of interest I know you will have gauges to measure the force inside the boot but do you put anything in there to simulate damage? in the same way mythbusters use gel and pipes to simulate flesh and bone injuries? when I did engineering we had a teacher who used to like to see things break when they failed as he said it gave incentive to do better next time. he would have had us jumping off tables onto bubblewrap and allsorts seeing as we didnt have fancy test rigs he made us improvise - a boiled egg in the heel held in place with newspaper and a tin of beans on top might do it, if not you have breakfast. :)
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#15
I remember reading an article years ago that Cambodian soldiers preferred trainers with padded soles to jungle boots because the trainers tended to be better at dissipating the effects of standing on the sort of small anti-personnel mines that litter SE Asia. With trainers on you'd loose your foot, with boots the whole lower leg.

Perhaps we are not far off the point where modern soldiers are wearing full all over armour. Ironman?
 
#16
I've already run this idea past the team at Imperial College. It's outside the area of their study
In order to propose footwear to mitigate the effects of blast when mounted the team will need to design footwear that is suitable for dismounted use. I would argue that making footwear the same weight as existing boots, as comfortable, as supportive through a wide range of motion, as breathable and most importantly as comfortable is your main challenge.

If you can take existing boots and modify the insole to provide a little more protection then that might be the easiest way to get it to market. More importantly for your organisation, having looked at your website, it will keep those lovely cheques coming from DSTL and other grant organisations your lot seem to have got together to milk. Am I very wrong?
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#17
In order to propose footwear to mitigate the effects of blast when mounted the team will need to design footwear that is suitable for dismounted use. I would argue that making footwear the same weight as existing boots, as comfortable, as supportive through a wide range of motion, as breathable and most importantly as comfortable is your main challenge.

If you can take existing boots and modify the insole to provide a little more protection then that might be the easiest way to get it to market. More importantly for your organisation, having looked at your website, it will keep those lovely cheques coming from DSTL and other grant organisations your lot seem to have got together to milk. Am I very wrong?
I'm as cynical as the next man but I recognise that R & D costs especially if you want clever people to do it.

10 years ago I don't suppose many people would have considered groin armour as practical or necessary. There are a few people around now who wish some one had thought about it earlier.
 
#19
Engr WMIK H4 Dvr and Comd thrown clear FACT
No, Dvr and Comd thrown from vehicle and survived - very different to being 'thrown clear'. Simple fact is that you cannot outrun a blast, or the damage caused by it.

There have been a few instances in which people thrown from vehicles might have died if they were strapped in - mostly in previous iterations of WMIK during rollover incidents in which the commanders seat in the 'raised' position caused his bonce to stick out the top of the protective rollcage envelope...
 
#20
I'm being funny now but the dvr didn't have a scratch on him. Comd tuck injures on landing. Understand what your staying and agree but there are exceptions to the rule
 

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