Whether it’s a football helmet, hospital bed, knee pad, or body armor, the foam within plays a critical role in making that product comfortable and safe. Now, Changchun “Chad” Zeng, PhD, a principal investigator with Florida State University’s High Performance Materials Institute (HPMI) says that foam may be transformed into something significantly better, safer, and more comfortable. “We know what is not working with current products and technology, and what it is going to take to make it better,” said Zeng. “For example, the socks that amputees currently use to attach prosthetic devices do not adjust to limb shape and volume, creating lots of problems. My invention solves those issues.”
Part of what makes Zeng’s new, high-performing auxetic foam unique is its ability to get thicker, rather than thinner, when stretched. In practical terms, this counterintuitive behavior, opposite that of conventional foam, leads to enhanced materials properties, including a better and more comfortable fit that adjusts on the fly.
Zeng’s auxetic foam has its roots in a multiyear, multimillion dollar project with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA Innovation Initiative project was aimed at addressing the shortcomings of current prosthetic socket systems through the development, testing, and delivery of “Socket Optimized for Comfort with Advanced Technology” (SOCAT) prototypes.
The new foam will be heading to the marketplace through a licensing agreement with the recently formed company Auxadyne, Keystone Heights, Florida.
“Auxadyne’s initial focus is going to be medical device bracing and pressure relieving applications, as well as protective sports, [and] military, law enforcement, and first responder equipment,” said Joseph Condon, president of Auxadyne. “[W]e will also be involved in a collaborative effort with HPMI to develop a next-generation prosthetic sock based on auxetic foam that will improve the quality of life of our amputees.”
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by Florida State University.