I recently did a project on the chemistry of a football helmet. I chose this item because football is one of my passions and I was interested in how football helmets are made. My safety and health relies on these helmets during my participation in the sport. Chemistry is a vital factor in the production of these helmets because miscalculations could lead to severe injury to the head. These helmets are composed of a polycarbonate shell, polyurethane padding, synthetic rubber, and a titanium facemask.
Composition of ...
Polyurethane- Padding- C25H42N2O6
Synthetic Rubber- Interior of Helmet- C4H6
Polycarbonate- Shell- [HO+2(CH3)+C+OH+CO]+Cl2
Titanium- Facemask- Ti
Steel Screws and Chin-Strap Clips- 2 Fe+ 3CO2
Plastic Clips- C2H3Cl
Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components
How- Polyurethane is made when 2 alcohols (polyol and isocyanate) combine in an exothermic reaction. The group formed by the reaction is called urethane linkage. It is how polyurethane is made.
What- Polyurethane is used in the foams on the inside of the helmet. This is arguably the most important part of the helmet since it absorbs shock, ultimately protecting the player.
When-Riddell’s revolution speed helmet, which uses polyurethane, came out in 2009.
Where- Riddell’s headquarters are in Rosemont, Illinois.
Why- It is used to absorb shock and protect players.
How- Polycarbonate is made by reacting bisphenol and carbonyl chloride. The process is known as condensation polymerization. In condensation polymerization, polymerization of one or more monomers is accompanied by the elimination of small molecules (such as water or ammonia).
What- Polycarbonate is the shell of the helmet.
Where- Rosemont, Illinois (cont.)
Why- The shell of the helmet is the athlete’s first line of defense. It needs to be strong for durability, yet flexible for shock absorption.
Polyurethane is formed when you mix equal parts of 2 liquids, A and B. This lightweight liquid expands to 30 times its size and becomes rigid/firm in 5 minutes.
Liquid A is a viscous(sticky), cream-colored substance containing a polyether polyol, a silicone surfactant, and a catalyst. The polyether polyol is the substance polypropylene glycol [HO(C3H6O)H]. The hydroxyl (OH) at the end of the polymer is the reactive site. The silicone surfactant is used to reduce surface tension between the 2 liquids. The catalyst is used to speed up the reaction without being physically changed itself.
Liquid B is a viscous(sticky), dark brown liquid containing diphenylmethane diisocyanate [(C6H5)2C(NCO)2].
Liquid A+Liquid B→ Polyurethane
[HO(C3H6O)H]+[(C6H5)2C(NCO)2] → C25H42N2O6
When liquid A and liquid B are mixed, an exothermic polymerization reaction occurs, forming polyurethane. Polyurethane is man-made and is a new substance. Without chemists, polyurethane would not exist.
Polycarbonate is formed when bisphenol and carbonyl chloride react through condensation polymerization. In condensation polymerization, polymerization of one or more monomers is accompanied by the elimination of small molecules (such as water or ammonia).
Bisphenol is made when propanone and phenol are reacted together. (CH3)2C+2OH→ HO+2(CH3)+C+OH
Carbonyl Chloride is produced from carbon monoxide and chlorine.
[HO+2(CH3)+C+OH] + COCl2→ [HO+2(CH3)+C+OH+CO]+Cl2
Football helmets are made in different pieces. First, the polycarbonate shell is made through the process of condensation polymerization using bisphenol and carbonyl chloride. This shell is then cooled and molded into the shape of the helmet. This shell is designed provide hard, outer protection, while also providing shock absorption and providing resistance to thermal distortion. Next, the polyurethane padding is made by combining two substances. Substance A ( polyether polyol, a silicone surfactant, and a catalyst) and substance B (diphenylmethane diisocyanate). When these substances cool after mixing, they form a rigid foam that absorbs shock and protects its player. Both substances are made in Rosemont, Illinois, Riddell’s headquarters.
History of the Football Helmet
Information on the Revolution Speed Helmet
What the Helmet Consists of
Information on Polyurethane
General Properties of Polyurethane
Information on Polycarbonate
More information on Polyurethane
Molecular Formula of Polyurethane
Steps of Making Polyurethane
Molecular Formula of Synthetic Rubber
Molecular Formula of Polycarbonate
Process of Making Polyurethane
How Polycarbonate is Made
Chemistry’s Role in Making Polycarbonate
Molecular Formula of Steel Screws and Clips
Molecular Formula of Plastic Clips
About the Author
Eli Tostengard is a Junior at Billings Senior High. He is a 3 sport athlete (Football, Basketball, and Track), an Academic All-State performer, a member of Senior Advocates, and an easily relatable guy. Eli is an eager student but doesn’t know what he wants to do in college yet. He also enjoys fishing, hanging out with friends, and living in Montana.