A heat transfer model describing burns to the skin from automotive airbags

G. N. Mercer, H. S. Sidhu


Automotive airbag usage is increasing with multiple airbags being fitted to many vehicles. Their ability to reduce morbidity associated with vehicle crashes is well documented; however, airbags have been identified as causing injuries in some instances. These injuries include abrasions, contusions, lacerations, and burns (thermal and chemical). Here we concentrate on the thermal burns due to contact with the hot expelled gases from the airbag or prolonged contact with the hot airbag itself. A heat transfer model is used to predict the likelihood and severity of these burns. It is shown that direct contact with high temperature gases venting from the airbag can indeed lead to burns and that burns from contacting the hot airbag material are possible but far less likely to occur in a correctly functioning airbag. These findings are supported by anecdotal evidence in the medical literature.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21914/anziamj.v47i0.1048

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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.