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Biomimetics Strikes Again

Casey Luskin

A fascinating piece at Gizmag, “Cardboard bike helmet could revolutionize head safety,” discusses “a bicycle helmet constructed from cardboard and designed by Royal College of Art student Anirudha Surabhi.” Before you scoff, consider this: the helmet “promises to be 15 percent lighter than standard helmets, while absorbing up to three times the impact energy during a collision.” And did they turn to some evolutionary algorithm to invent this improved bike helmet? No. They turned to the skull of the woodpecker:

The designer was struck by the woodpecker’s ability to withstand repeated heavy impact, thanks to the bird’s unique corrugated cartilage structure which separates beak from skull — this concept gave rise to the Kranium’s honeycomb cardboard structure dubbed “Dual Density Honey Comb Board,” or D2.

While some bicycle riders may balk at the thought of trusting their head to something as seemingly fragile as cardboard, the Kranium boasts some rather impressive safety figures. These were enough to secure the interest of Formula 1 team Force India, which is incorporating the Kranium technology into its own helmet design.

Rather than remaining completely rigid, the helmet is designed to allow a degree of flexing in order to help absorb impact force, of which it can withstand up to three times as much as typical expanded polystyrene (EPS) helmets, while remaining 15 percent lighter.

The woodpecker’s skull, which allows it to beat its head against a tree for long periods of time without damaging the brain, has a unique form which has long been cited as an argument for design. But the woodpecker’s skull wasn’t designed, just bike helmets that copy it — right?


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.