Liquid Armor

Liquid armor from BAE

This is a story I got half-written before I realized the accounts I was reading referenced a story several years old. Still, it’s interesting so I finished it and here it is. You’re welcome.

The British defense and security company, BAE Systems, has announced “shear thickening liquid.” The name’s no great shakes but apparently, this is a gel that can stop a bullet. The liquid has been designed to provide armor that is much lighter and easier to wear than the traditional Kevlar fabric and ceramic plate outfit that is de rigeur among the world’s armed forces today.

Stewart Penney, head of business development for design and materials at BAE, explained the functioning of the liquid to journalists this way: If you were to stir a container of the liquid armor, you would not feel must resistance at first, but increase the speed and, the faster you stir, the more the resistance builds up.

The particles in the liquid lock together when subjected to a strike. It also spreads the force of the strike across a greater surface area than Kevlar. This reduces the likelihood that a bullet will cause injury and pain. Although traditional armor can keep the wearer’s body from being breached by a projectile, the force must still go somewhere and that is often into the wearer’s body, breaking bones and compressing tissue.

The armor is not science fiction. It cannot simply be spread on the user and stop bullets. (That would be cool, though.) Instead, BAE envisions the shear thickening liquid taking the place of the heavy ceramic plates in a soldier’s kit. This would reduce the weight of a 25-pound flak jacket by half and reduce the temperature of the wearer. The combination would also reduce the wearer’s fatigue substantially.

The company tested 10 layers of Kevlar with shear thickening liquid vest against 31 layers of the fabric without the liquid. At a speed of 300 meters per second, the depth at the strike point was much less in the liquid example than in Kevlar alone.

The next goal for the company is to increase the toughness of the armor using the liquid so that it could stop not just small arms fire but automatic weapons fire from rifles like the AK47.

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