Many head-on and side impact collisions happen on a day-to-day basis. To minimize the distress, auto manufacturers introduced seat belts, which saved many occupants during serious collisions. But, there were also deaths caused in spite of using these seat belts. To further reduce the percentage of injuries and deaths, airbags came into the picture. Survey showed that with the airbags mounted, death and injuries can be reduced by 30-percent, which is admirable.
An airbag is an empty bag, which becomes a soft cushion when serious crashes occur. Airbags made its debut in automobiles in the early 80’s, before which it was used only in airplanes. These airbags are installed between the occupants and the various car equipments and car structure to completely avoid or if possible decrease any sort of contact that the passengers may have with the hard surfaces of the car.
Now manufacturers consider airbags as one of the safest equipments and bedeck their cars with two, six, and even eight. Various airbags are placed in different locations in the car. There is front driver and front passenger airbags, rear seat passenger airbags, front-side driver and passenger airbags, and side-curtain airbags. Foreign companies have started designing an airbag safety canopy system that covers all the passengers with the safety of airbags. An airbag slowly tries to bring the kinetic energy of the passengers to zero, when an accident occurs, to save the passengers from serious harm.
An airbag has three important components – bag, sensor, and an inflation system. The bag looks like an empty pillow cover and is made out of fine nylon. The sensor is an electronic devise, which orders the bag to inflate. The sensors obtain the information from an accelerometer built into a microchip and then the inflation system starts to work. It combines sodium azide with potassium nitrate to produce nitrogen gas, which fills the airbag. All these actions happen in a few milliseconds, after or during a crash or in some cases as a pre-emptive action due to loss of control of the car. After the car come to a halt, the gas quickly dissipates from the bag through tiny pores, thus deflating it. The chalky substance that comes out of the bag while deflating is either ordinary talcum powder or cornstarch, used to smear the bag while in storage.
Different makers mount airbags at different positions. In Volvo cars you can find airbags at the seat-back. This positioning of the airbags protects passengers regardless of how the seats are positioned. BMW cars have airbags mounted on the doors of its cars. The doors have more space and can hold bigger bags. BMW also features head bags, which works in a similar way as the other airbags.
Researchers are still experimenting on these safety bags to design it even more efficiently to further decrease the injury rates.