Acoustics engineer's work helps take the sting out of baseball bats

Jul 17, 2013

For aspiring major leaguers, one of the most painful aspects of learning the game is dealing with the sting of the bat's handle when a baseball is hit incorrectly.

"If you hit the ball in the wrong place, it creates a vibration that hurts," said Daniel Russell, professor of acoustics and director of acoustics distance education at Penn State.

But work by Russell is helping to soften the sting through a vibration absorber built into a bat's knob.

For the acoustics faculty member, the foray into researching bat stings was an accident. As a physics professor at Kettering University in Flint, Mich., Russell sought a laboratory exercise to teach his students experimental modal analysis and its relationship with structural vibration.

"I needed a simple vibrating structure that students could completely study and analyze within a laboratory period," he explained.

"I had been using a rectangular beam," Russell said, "But it was too perfectly matched with what they learned in the classroom."

For something a bit more real world, he turned to baseball bats. "I could have the students learn the procedure, measure 35 data points and analyze the resulting frequencies and mode shapes within one laboratory class period."

After posting some animations of results on YouTube, he got a call from CE Composites Baseball Inc. and was asked to rank bats according to performance, based on vibration and acoustic measurements. His ranking was correct, and Russell provided experimental data as they developed their line.

Since his collaboration with CE Composites, Russell's consulted with a number of major bat manufacturers, including DeMarini, Easton, Louisville Slugger, Nike, Rawlings and Worth, as well as branching out into other hand-held sports equipment, such as field and ice hockey sticks, racquetball racquets and golf clubs.

Working with Marucci Sports, he helped to develop a vibration absorber that's built into the knob of some of their baseball bats.

"It's a bigger knob than most bats have," he explained. The tiny cylindrical device's diameter is a bit larger than a quarter. "It's a mass piece with a spring."

To measure the effectiveness of the vibration absorber, Russell hangs the bat upside down, attaching an accelerometer to the bat's grip. He then strikes the bat barrel with a hammer to determine the vibration decay.

"Typically a wood bat has a dampening rating of about 10, while an aluminum bat is a one," Russell said. A higher number is more desirable for the hitter.

With a correctly tuned vibration absorber, the damping rating shoots up to between 200 and 300.

The work has earned him the nickname "Batman" from his students and his office even features a few pieces from that other Batman.

The research has been patented, and Marucci's currently employ a second-generation vibration absorber from the work.

Explore further: Piezoelectric chin device harvests jaw movements for energy

Related Stories

Taking the bite out of baseball bats

Oct 18, 2012

Miss hitting the "sweet spot" on a baseball bat and the resulting vibrations can zing your hands. Bat companies have tried for decades to reduce these painful shocks with limited success. But Daniel Russell, a professor in ...

Do bats know voices of friends they hang out with? (w/ video)

May 07, 2013

Is it possible that mammals have the ability to recognize individuals of the same species, whom they know well, by their voice? A new study has found that even in nocturnal, fast-moving animals such as bats, there is an ability ...

New website calls for help from bat detectives

Oct 03, 2012

Scientists are asking for the public's help to monitor bats across Europe and track changes in our environment by listening to their weirdly wonderful ultrasonic tweets on a new website.

Hibernation keeps rabies going in bats

Jun 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, infectious disease biologist Dylan George from Colorado State University reports that a bat’s hibernation is wha ...

Recommended for you

Big new iPhone brings Apple more profit

7 hours ago

Apple's largest iPhone is selling for $100 more than its other new model, but a new report says it costs Apple only $15.50 more to make the more expensive version.

Microsoft to launch Xbox One in China in days

9 hours ago

US technology giant Microsoft will launch its Xbox One in China on September 29, becoming the first game console to enter the market in 14 years, it said Tuesday, in an apparent reversal of a delay announced ...

PlayStation TV to hit US in October

9 hours ago

PlayStation TV home entertainment system is set to hit North America on October 14 as Sony seeks to improve its financial footing with games, films and music.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2013
Does it affect the amount of energy imparted on the ball being hit?
dogbert
1 / 5 (7) Jul 17, 2013
Does it affect the amount of energy imparted on the ball being hit?


That is a good question. I would think that during the time the vibration is damping normally or with an enhanced damping system, the ball is no longer in touch with the bat and would therefore not be affected by the damping.