Posted in: General


Airbag And How It Works


An airbag is basically a safety-enhancing device that acts as vehicle occupant restraint system. It’s a bag that inflates very quickly and then quickly deflate in the event of a collision. The entire airbag system includes an airbag cushion, a flexible fabric bag, an inflation module, and an impact sensor.

An airbag provides cushioning to vehicle occupant in the event of a collision, thereby saving him from grave injuries. Some expensive cars come with as many as 10 airbags while all cars sold in India have 2 airbags

How do airbags open in cars?
In an unfortunate event of an accident, the crash sensors provided in the vehicle feed the information to airbag electronic controller. The data that is transmitted in milliseconds includes information on collision type, its angle and even the severity.
Putting this information to use, the airbag’s electronic control unit determines if the crash warrants the deployment of an airbag.
In case it detects the need, it triggers all the circuits to deploy the required airbag. Airbags work as a passive safety system. Also, they are fired through a pyrotechnic process that has been designed to be used only once. Once an airbag is deployed, the car needs excessive repairs to install a replacement unit.
How do airbags work?
The physics behind airbags is pretty simple: on-board sensors look out for movements that indicate a vehicle has been involved in a collision, triggering the airbag to fire if a crash is detected.
When this happens, a small explosive device detonates within an airbag module, inflating the bag, which fills with air to protect vehicle occupants.
The technology has developed over the years, with some airbags able to detect the forces involved in a collision, inflating to the correct amount based on this data.
Airbags are also known as ‘supplementary restraint devices’ because they are designed to work in conjunction with seatbelts, which themselves control how your body behaves in a crash. This name is what some airbags are labelled as ‘SRS’.
Can Airbags Be Replaced or Fixed After Deployment?
In some cases, airbags can be replaced and fixed after deployment. If the airbag has deployed though, it will need to be replaced as it is no longer safe for use and cannot be effective moving forward.
Replacing an airbag involves removing the damaged airbag and installing a new one in its place which can be done relatively quickly and easily. This is often the case if the deployment has caused minimal damage to other parts of the vehicle or airbag itself, making it a feasible replacement option and necessary for your safety. Always make sure to have the airbag checked out by a mechanic.
How are they activated in cars?
Since NaN3 reacts at high temperatures, there are collision sensors attached in front of a car which takes advantage of this property. As soon as a collision is sensed, an igniter compound is produced, which is responsible for raising the temperature causing the compound of NaN₃ to break and produce the N2, which inflates the airbag in about 30 seconds.
Types of car airbags
There are 4 airbags and below are their full details
1. Frontal Airbags: These are now provided on all cars sold in India. These are located at the front. The driver’s front airbag is located in the steering wheel. Meanwhile, the front passenger’s front airbag is housed in the dashboard.
They offer protection in an event of a frontal collision. All cars now come with weight sensor in the front passenger seat. It prevents the deployment of an airbag in case of a small child using the co-driver seat. In older cars that don’t have front sensors, an airbag, on deployment, can cause injury to younger children.
2. Side Airbags: Side airbags will be soon offered on all cars as 6 airbags will be made mandatory. These airbags protect the occupants in case of a side impact. There re two main types of side airbags – side torso airbag and curtain airbag.
The former is located in the side of the seat and inflates between the driver and the door. The curtain airbag is positioned on the roof and is inflated like a curtain from the car’s ceiling. In most cases, curtain airbags give protection to passengers in the front and rear seats. In some larger vehicles, they are even found in the third row of seats.
3. Knee Airbags: Since the dawn of the millennium, many carmakers started offering knee airbags on their costly models. These are positioned under the steering wheel and inflate under the dashboard.
It prevents the knees of the occupants on the front seats from hitting the hard objects that might intrude into the leg space from the collision. This avoids a common injury in the case of frontal collisions.
4. Inflatable seat belts: The last of the airbags type is yet another feature that is available only on the most expensive of the cars. While these are classified as airbags, they’re merely an advanced form of seatbelt that is inflatable. Like seatbelt, they provide a cushion that reduces the impact on the occupants.
Why is nitrogen used in airbags?
Sodium azide is a very stable explosive that explodes at a very high temperature of around 300°C and takes around 40 milliseconds to produce a large volume of nitrogen which is enough to inflate the airbag. Also, N₂ being an inert gas is harmless.
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