A Simple Tool for Saving Soldiers

War? What is it good for?

One of the few good things that comes from war is advanced in technology and techniques for treating trauma.

For instance, you and I grew up being taught that using a tourniquet was a last resort for treating bleeding from an extremity. But during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, losses from exsanguination made the services realize that applying a tourniquet immediately was in fact the best method of treating bleeding. And so every soldier now carries as least one tourniquet.

But often pelvic injuries and other wounds cannot be treated by a traditional tourniquet. Enter the SAM junctional tourniqet.

The result is the SAM Junctional Tourniquet, which weighs just over a pound and can be deployed in under 25 seconds, a critical benefit where medics only have about 90 seconds to save their patient’s life. Its simple, belt-like appearance belies important innovations.

IED explosions frequently lead to pelvic fractures and high leg amputations, which current tourniquet technology is not equipped to treat. Ziba’s design is the first field dressing that can be used at the waist. Pneumatic air bladders are hidden under the ballistic nylon surface and are inflated to staunch bleeding, but a clever shut-off valve prevents over-eager medics from over-inflating the device and further injuring their comrades.

We can expect to see the advances in military trauma treatment showing up in civilian protocols. First aid treatment for trauma is all about extending the “golden hour” and keeping the wounded alive long enough to reach an operating room. And this will be an important tool for just that.

Bulletproofing a space station

Roamy here.  So I’ve talked about bulletproof vests and space debris, it’s finally time to talk about shielding.  A common way of testing different shielding designs is a two-stage light gas gun.

Your gun might be bigger, but mine shoots faster.

A high-speed rifle can shoot around 1.5 km/sec; a light gas gun can shoot up to 8 km/sec.  The “light gas” part comes from using either hydrogen or helium in the first stage.  A really good explanation of how this works can be found here. Basically you blow up some gunpowder, which moves a piston, which compresses the light gas behind an aluminum disk machined to burst at a specific pressure. Disk bursts, moving the projectile down the barrel to the target, past X-rays and/or cameras so you can figure out the speed, then impact.

Shielding for space debris is based on the Whipple shield, where you have a sacrificial plate to break up the debris into smaller particles.  (Dr. Fred Whipple, not the “don’t squeeze the Charmin” guy)  For the Space Station, you also have a thermal insulation blanket made up of thin layers of metallized plastic film and netting spacers.  A lot of thought goes into how thick the sacrificial plate should be, the spacing between all the components, and how to replace it on orbit when it’s done its job.

If you have just a sacrificial plate of aluminum and a thermal blanket, you can still get this kind of damage.

Sorry for the poor quality, but it was the best I could find that was cleared.
Add in a blanket like a bulletproof vest – Kevlar and Nextel or other aramids and ceramic cloth, and you get some dimples and craters instead.
L to R, sacrificial plate, protective blanket, simulated pressure wall

That little marble in front of the protective blanket in the picture above?  One of those fired at 6.7 km/sec is what caused that damage.  Remember from your physics class, kinetic energy equals one-half mass times velocity squared.  Only one gram or so, but that velocity squared is a bitch.

Update by XBradTC: Basically, NASA engineers are facing the same problem that every tank, bullet-proof vest, and warship designer faces- the balance between weight, protection and likely risk.

It would be the simplest thing imaginable to protect an infantryman from head to toe against small arms fire. The problem is, the weight needed to protect him would leave him immobile. An infantryman who can’t move isn’t an infantryman anymore. So risk becomes a factor. For a soldier that will spend most of his time in a Humvee, it’s pretty easy to justify adding a groin protector and deltoid armor. But a troop who has to ascend and descend steep mountains all day in Afghanistan can’t really hump that extra armor. The risk of sustaining a non-lethal wound to extremities becomes acceptable in that case.

Same thing with tanks. Tanks are more heavily armored on the front slope than elsewhere, because that is where they are most likely to be hit by the most dangerous projectiles.  You can’t armor something so heavily that it is invulnerable without sacrificing the mobility of the tank to a degree that renders it useless.

In NASA’s case, it costs a lot of money for every pound lifted into orbit. Without any protection, you face an unacceptable risk from small impacts. But with too much mass devoted to protection, you sacrifice lifting up the resources that are the whole point of the project.

Phone home…

I finally broke down last year and bought a cell phone. Not that there’s anyone I really want to talk to. I just need it in case my car breaks down.

But lots of folks these days have smart phones of various kinds. And they’ve found them to be extremely useful. The ability to add virtually any kind of app imaginable has been a boon almost on a plane with the original revolution in personal computing.

And not surprisingly, a lot of smart GIs are coming up with ways to use their smart phones to help them do their jobs. And industry is starting to pay attention:

“Cell phones are tired of waiting for the troops to come home and are going to war themselves. Tech startup Berico Tailored Systems, Lockheed Martin and apparently an army of Slashdot users are currently making tactical 3G cellular networks and smartphone applications for the military to use overseas.

The most sophisticated communication system I worked with in the Army was the PRC-77/VRC-64 radio with the KY-57 encryption system. It was on a technological par with a pair of tin cans and some string.

The ability to communicate with both voice and data would be a big help all by itself. Add in the multitude of computational tasks a smart phone with the appropriate apps could do, and you are talking about a real weapon.

Cell phones. They aren’t just for setting off IEDs anymore.