Project: Altered Carbon – M.A. thesis
Disciplines: Industrial Design
The M.A. thesis project »Altered Carbon« places the chemical element carbon at the center of the overall design. In this project an extensive material research was followed by a design process with the aim to combine a human centred design approach and the benefits various forms of concentrated, materialised carbon can offer. All research findings conducted in the first half of the project, are bundled in the design of a conceptual bike helmet.
At the core of the helmet an active charcoal-cellulose-composite replaces the commonly used Styrofoam. This specially developed material is able to absorb shock impact during a fall and adsorbs moisture and odours while wearing it. The inner shell of the helmet, made of carbon fibre, provides an enclosing structures for the composite components and functions in combination with the outer shell as a sandwich material with air pockets for further shocks absorption.
The outer shell is comprised of two halves which are both electrically insulated form each other and the inner shell. This happens naturally during the lamination process. Apart form the structural qualities, carbon fibres are electrically conductive too.
On one side, the choice of material used for this helmet provides direct comfort and protection for the rider. However, a bright backlight on the rear side of the helmet makes riding in traffic even safer. For an unobtrusive user experience, the integrated light turns on by closing the buckle.
This very intuitive, user focused safety feature, roots in the use of carbon fibre material for the outer shell and the straps itself. No wires are needed, since the energy supply fro the backlight is transferred though the structural material itself.
Aside from the active safety features, the electrically conductive carbon fibre material makes it possible to detect hairline cracks – invisible to the human eye – in the carbon fibre composite. Measuring and translating the electric resistance data into simple information can help users to decide after an accident weather their helmet is still structurally sound or no longer safe enough for further use.