A Non-Newtonian Liquid Armor Hardens on Impact

Researchers have developed a liquid that stops bullets fired at 450 meters (1,476 feet) per second.
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Researchers have developed a liquid that stops bullets fired at 450 meters (1,476 feet) per second.
Non-Newtonian fluid (Photo credit: Rory MacLeod, via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Non-Newtonian fluid (Photo credit: Rory MacLeod, via Flickr)

Researchers at the Military Institute of Armament Technology in Warsaw have developed a liquid that stops bullets fired at 450 meters (1,476 feet) per second. Moratex, a Polish company specializing in body armor systems, is now working to implement this liquid into its protective gear.

The liquid is a Shear-Thickening Fluid (STF), a non-Newtonian fluid in which, “The viscosity increases thanks to the subordination of particles in the liquid structure,” Moratex researcher, Karolina Olszewska, told Reuters. In other words, STF hardens upon impact and disperses energy over a larger area.

Compared to traditional Kevlar-based protective vests, the Moratex vest reduces a projectile’s deflection from four centimeters down to one centimeter, according to Deputy Director for Research at the Moratex institute, Marcin Struszczyk. He told Reuters, “a four centimeter deep deflection may cause injury to the sternum, sternum fracture, myocardial infarction, lethal damage to the spleen.” By removing three centimeters of deflection, “we eliminate one hundred percent of this threat.”

That said, the armor’s protection is not perfect. An M16 rifle fires bullets at 990 meters per second. Euronews reports, “For the moment, according to lab tests, this body armor can resist projectiles traveling at speeds of around 900 meters per second.”

According to Popular Science, British arms manufacturer BAE developed Kevlar-STF hybrid body armors in 2010, but the armor’s excessive weight prohibited practical application. Moratex is tight-lipped about its formula and has yet to detail the armor’s weight and specifications.

Researchers are optimistic that their STF may some day be used beyond body armor, to provide added protection in sports equipment, car bumpers and road barriers. These applications are still conceptual but may prove promising for both military and everyday protection.