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Liquid Armor the New Bulletproof Vest 629

kjh1 writes "Armor Holdings Inc. plans to start selling their 'liquid armor' next year. The new armor, originally envisioned to be spread on like peanut butter, is instead sprayed onto Kevlar in ultrathin coats. From the article: 'it's a mix of polyethylene glycol, a polymer found in laxatives and other consumer products, and nanobits of silica, or purified sand. Together they produce a "sheer-thickening liquid" that stiffens instantly into a shield when hit hard by an object. It reverts to its liquid state just as fast when the energy from the projectile dissipates.'"
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Liquid Armor the New Bulletproof Vest

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  • Video link (Score:5, Informative)

    by skurk ( 78980 ) * on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:27AM (#15823658) Homepage Journal
    There's a video on break.com where you can see the liquid armor in action - it's pretty amazing:
    clicky [break.com]
    • by ElHorrendo ( 726369 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:31AM (#15823838)
      ...but look down. We'd have joined each other in death.
      • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @10:56AM (#15824887) Journal
        Larry Niven's Known Space series has armor exactly like this, that stiffens on impact. The only thing the armor has in common with Dune is that a slow impact gets through, IIRC in Dune they used some kind of force field. Larry describes what it's like to try to run in a suit like this while being peppered with automatic gunfire. Kinda funny. I don't think the Dune force fields stiffened up and made you fall over while being shot...
    • by BarryNorton ( 778694 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:36AM (#15823850)
      So how would this have protected his Sergeant's groin?

      "What are you doing, soldier?"

      "Painting my groin, sir..."
    • Re:Video link (Score:4, Informative)

      by corychristison ( 951993 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:33AM (#15823995)

      So I have the choice of one DRM infested video, or another DRM infested video wrapped in a Flash Movie. Thank you. :-P

      I was forced to see it in a slightly different version of the DRM infested video wrapped in a Flash Movie [google.ca]. ;-)
  • Other Applications (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:28AM (#15823660) Homepage
    Ok, forget the bulletproof vests, because I'll never need one. But how much would it cost to coat your car in this stuff? And would it give extra protection?
    • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:34AM (#15823687) Homepage
      But how much would it cost to coat your car in this stuff? And would it give extra protection?

      Nope, not if it's your safety you're worried about, rather than the cars. You want the car to deform, so your decelleration slows down. Just like a helmet, you want it to break so you don't.

      • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:03AM (#15823783)
        True story: I had a neighbour who just could not grasp this concept. They'd heard about a modern car which had crumpled really badly in a relatively minor accident, writing it off. They'd therefore decided that older cars built like brick outhouses were far "better", because you might still have a car after the accident.

        Try as I might, complete with diagrams and models, I could not get across the idea that this was a good thing, and that had the car not done the crumpling, the passengers would have - and who cares if the car's repairable when everyone in it's dead?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:39AM (#15823858)
          Try as I might, complete with diagrams and models, I could not get across the idea that this was a good thing, and that had the car not done the crumpling, the passengers would have - and who cares if the car's repairable when everyone in it's dead?

          This is a common fallacy when people have just a rudimentary understanding of physics and no other applicable knowledge. A car that crumples well is only definitely better when it's car vs much more massive stationary solid object (e.g., a rock face). When it's two cars, however, it's more like the game theory example of the prisoner's dilemma. If both cars crumple well, then it's fairly good for both. If, however, one vehicle is both more rigid and more massive—something common to older cars—then the situation is greatly weighted in that vehicle's favor. An extreme example of this would be an M1 Abrams vs a small Toyota.

          Thus, if you don't give a shit about the other guys as long as your kids are safe, and you're not a drunk/wreckless driver that is likely to slam into a building/rock face/telephone pole/whatever, the safest option may well be the biggest, heaviest vehicle with a strong frame that you can possibly find.
          • by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:13AM (#15823941) Journal
            if ... you're not a drunk/wreckless driver that is likely to slam into a building/rock face/telephone pole/whatever

            I would think it very unlikely that a driver reckless enough to be likely to slam into buildings or rock faces would remain wreckless for long.
          • by klaun ( 236494 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:53AM (#15824065)
            This is a common fallacy when people have just a rudimentary understanding of physics and no other applicable

            example of this would be an M1 Abrams vs a small Toyota.

            heaviest vehicle with a strong frame that you can possibly find.

            Your example relies on a signficant difference in mass as well as overall rigidity of the two vehicles in question. Deformable frames being about absorbing energy (and momentum, being an inelastic collision) in an impact. An M1 brings way more Kinetic Energy to the impact than can be absorbed by a deforming frame of a Toyota.

            The safety of the passengers is dependent on how quickly the vehicle passenger compartment decelerates, as that will determine with what force they impact the interior of the vehicle (the so-called "second impact"). The M1 will not decelerate very much, but it is because of the mass disparity, not that it is rigid.

            Obviously a crumple zone cannot absorb an unlimited amount of energy, but up to the amount it can absorb it is definitely good for you, whether you are hitting something rigid or not.

            • Good point. I'd add that in the example of old rigid car hitting a new car with crumble zones, the crumple zone of the second car will slow down the deceleration of both cars. In effect, the crumple zone of the second car serves both cars equally well (although half as well as if both cars have crumple zones).

              (the following is directed toward the GP...)

              So, sure drive a big heavy tank, and if you hit a well engineered Toyota you'll do great. Too bad about that Mom and her kids you just plowed through, tho
          • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @08:20AM (#15824156)
            Actually, this is not true. I've got some friends who do car safety analysis all the time and they say that a modern crumple zone + rigid passenger egg is safer than a rigid car or light truck in a collision - the crumple zone absorbs most of its car's energy and the rigid car flips over.

            There are many dead SUV drivers to disprove your claim.
          • by hawg2k ( 628081 )
            You could try explaining it in dollars and cents, so to speak. I'm sure your insurance companies claims department could explain how medical costs and bodily injury/death related lawsuits tend to cost much more than repair and property damage related lawsuits do.

            Some people don't speak physics, so you just have to find their "language".

            Just a thought.
          • False dichotomy (Score:3, Informative)

            Even big heavy modern cars have crumple zones engineered in. A 6000 lb car with a crumple zone will always be safer than a 6000 lb car without a crumple zone.
          • by awol ( 98751 )
            I saw a fairly reputable television demonstration (http://fifthgear.five.tv/jsp/5gmain.jsp?lnk=601& f eatureid=301&pageid=-1) of a "rigid" vs "rigid passenger + crumple" offset head on impact. The two cars were a Land Rover Discovery and a Renault Espace MPV. The results were pretty spectacular and the Espace wins clearly. I also recommend the earlier test of "Old Espace" vs "New Espace" if you can track it down on the same site. (Found the video at Renaults web site http://www.renaulttv.co.uk/main.p [renaulttv.co.uk]
          • by nasor ( 690345 )
            How the hell did this get modded to +5? This deserves a "-1, poster probably failed Introduction to Physics" mod option.

            It is always safer to be in a deforming vehicle during a crash, assuming the vehicle doesn't deform so much that it crushes you. It doesn't matter whether you're crashing into a tree, an SUV, a tank, or another deforming vehicle.

            If you hit a crumpling vehicle with your truck, the crumpling will decrease the elasticity of the collision and reduce the acceleration experienced by both
        • My theory is: As long as the other guy's car deforms, things should work out just fine for you and your steel frame retromobile.

          Just try not to run into any trees or other non-crumple zoned objects.

          /Any safety features are irrelevant if you're not wearing a seatbelt.

    • Other than on the windows it wouldn't protect much, quite the opposite. If you frontaly collide with something, the deforming of the motor compartiment absorbs a lot of the kinetic energy your cars has. If it can't deform, the other parts would have to deal with that energy. And those are the parts you would be sitting in.
      That is, assuming such a coating would have any effect when applied in that way.
    • by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:11AM (#15823794)
      > Ok, forget the bulletproof vests, because I'll never need one.

      Never say never!
    • by AndersOSU ( 873247 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @08:49AM (#15824275)
      The real selling point of this stuff in car finishes wouldn't be that your car is now bullet proof (although that would make a good bullet point in the brochure.)

      Consider this:

      We drove this new Ford(TM) Mustang(TM) with DuPont(TM) Protectoguard(TM) coating on the Jersy turnpike, for 200 miles, in construction, behind a Peterbuilt(TM) dumptruck. We recorded 390 discrete stone strikes. But thanks to the Miricles of Science (TM) there isn't a single paint chip in the finish. Blah Blah Blah. Now that's a BOLD move.(TM)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:28AM (#15823662)
    First the military is developing something called an "ultrasonic tourniquet", now somebody is making bulletproof peanut butter?? Fuck this shit, the universe is just too weird right now. I am going to bed.
  • by Riktov ( 632 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:32AM (#15823675) Journal

    "it's a mix of polyethylene glycol, a polymer found in laxatives..."

    As if having a gun fired at you isn't enough to make you shit your pants...

  • Magic Chocolate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dustpuppy ( 5260 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:32AM (#15823679)
    ... they found that the materials worked best when painted on Kevlar in ultrathin coats. By holding the fibers tight like a flexible glue, the compound spreads out the impact of a blow better than fibers alone.
    Imagine the practical jokes you could play with this stuff ... smear a thin coating on eggs and watch as your housemate tries to crack them in the morning. Or smear it on a trampoline ... the more they try and jump up and down, the less bounce they get. Or if you could blow bubbles with this stuff ... would you be able to pop them?
    • Re:Magic Chocolate (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:25AM (#15823824) Journal
      I'm wondering if you could effectively immobilize someone wearing this armor by shooting them with a sonic canon.
      • Re:Magic Chocolate (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FirienFirien ( 857374 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:53AM (#15824067) Homepage
        You'd need to have a high enough amplitude and frequency to cause the goop to shear against itself from the sound; I'm not quite sure, but gut feel says you wouldn't need to immobilize them since you'd be doing horrible things to their skin and organs already.
    • Re:Magic Chocolate (Score:5, Informative)

      by FirienFirien ( 857374 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:51AM (#15824056) Homepage
      The eggs one won't work, because the eggshell is rigid, and so provides no shear force on the coating. The trampoline one should work, but the effect you'd feel is negligible - this stuff works well at the speed of bullets, but at that small thickness you'd get little effect at the speed of a person's bounce. If you could get bubbles to work, then they'd still pop - they'd just pop slowly, since as the sides pull away from the initial point of zero thickness they'd cap their own speed.

      Yeah, I did projects on this stuff. You can make some yourself with 1 part water and 1.44 parts cornflour; put it in at 1:1.3, then continue to add the rest of the flour while pouring. It'll get difficult to mix (don't do it in a machine, you'll break the machine, it's like stirring rocks at that speed) but a minute of perseverance will give you something you can bounce your thumb off or sink your finger in. Good fun. Kids love it, and it's easy to clean off; if it gets onto clothes then it just rinses out.
  • Just make the whole uniform out of kevlar coated with this stuff. Might not need that many layers before your regular uniform is bullet resistant...
  • Gloves (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:42AM (#15823718) Homepage
    While liquid armor seems tailor-made for combat personnel or police, the company is initially targeting prisons because the fabric resists punctures. That means it can protect guards from stabbings, something even a top-of-the-line bulletproof vest can't do.

    Can they produce gloves able to stand up to shark bites ?
    How about gloves for butchers ?
    Would they be cheaper to produce than the steel-ring gloves used today ?
    Are they water proof ?
    How do they react to heat; could they be used in motorcycle clothing ?
    • Re:Gloves (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:39AM (#15823857) Journal
      Can they produce gloves able to stand up to shark bites ?

      Thereby forcing sharks to evolve frickin' lasers on their heads.
    • Re:Gloves (Score:4, Informative)

      by im_mac ( 927998 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @10:26AM (#15824712)
      I've actually played with some of this stuff (I know the people who developed this, and by the way, there's no hyphen in Delaware, despite what BusinessWeek thinks) and yes, I don't see why they couldn't make butchers' gloves out of it. One of the easy demos they do is give you an ice pick and two pieces of kevlar and ask you to puncture each sheet. You can stab the ice pick through the normal kevlar but not through the shear-thickening fluid treated one. That should provide some protection against sudden knife slips that butchers might experience.
  • Custard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:45AM (#15823728) Journal
    So basicly they're making military use custard (being gentle will let you penetrate it, but use force and you bounce off). Buug how will this stand up against a knife or a bayonet? I know in the modern era this is more or less mute, but it's still something I'd personally wonder about.
  • by forgotten_my_nick ( 802929 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @05:45AM (#15823729)
    Although I am not sure what the point of it being in this state protects more? Does it weigh less?

    Anyway kids if you want to create your own non-newtonian fluid fluid at home heres how.

    1. Get your custard power, or corn starch (think baking soda can be used too).

    2. Get a dish or a cup. More fun with a large jar though.

    3. Add some water to the container and proceed to mix as much powder as possible into the water until it gets to a weird creamy/solid state.

    You now have something which is a liquid and solid at the same time. Enjoy! :D
  • Has someone sold the Emperor a suit made out of Silly Putty [sillyputty.com]
  • The fascinating thing about this is that it will just change the weapons. Better armour means just one thing, better weapons. So you can't stab a guard with a shiv, they'll find another, probably more gruesom way of penetrating the thin blue line.

    Never the less, liquid armour sounds cool, can I have it in my motorbike kit? Lighter, more flexible armour that resists penetration can only make landing in a hedge that little bit safer. Of course, better armour means more dangerous riding...
  • What we can expect in the 21st century:

    • People are going to start fighting with swords again, because bullets won't work.
    • Somebody will be able to fill a pool full of this stuff (or, if it floats, it'll be even more feasible), causing the swimmers to be fine, but the divers to suffer spinal cord injuries.
  • Oobleck (Score:4, Informative)

    by david.given ( 6740 ) <dg@@@cowlark...com> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:11AM (#15823795) Homepage Journal

    This stuff sounds like a dilatant [wikipedia.org].

    Kitchen experiment: take some cornflour and some water. Mix one part of water to about two parts of cornflour until you get a thick paste. Play with it.

    If you apply gentle pressure, it behaves like a fluid. If you apply strong pressure, it abruptly solidifies. Scoop up a handful and throw it at something, and it'll bounce. Drop something heavy into a bucket of it and it'll sink.

    Beach sand also manifests this behaviour, under certain situations; occasionally you can find a patch of heavily waterlogged sand that's rock hard when you walk across it, but if you stand still you slowly find yourself sinking in.

    Disclaimer: cornflour almost certainly does not make good body armour.

    • Re:Oobleck (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tumbleweedsi ( 904869 ) <simon,painter&gmail,com> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:16AM (#15823807) Homepage
      I saw a thing on Brainiac where they filled a swimming pool full of cornflour and water and got a guy to walk on it... it was ok so long as he kept moving but as soon as he stopped he sank pretty quickly.

      Getting out was pretty hard as the more he pulled the more it turned like concrete... pretty scary if you start sinking in this stuff and have nothing to hang on to!
    • Re:Oobleck (Score:3, Informative)

      by dpilot ( 134227 )
      One of the positive side-effects of having kids - getting to play with stuff like this with mine. (as well as Legos, etc.)

      I was going to post about Oobleck, but first did a quick scan to see if anyone else had. We called it corn starch instead of cornflour.

      I presume the name comes from "Bartholomew and the Oobleck" by Dr. Suess.
  • Hmm

    I wonder if a slow projectile would get through? Ok, obligatory Dune reference in the heading, but still I wonder...
  • A Similar idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 07734 ( 947149 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:23AM (#15823819)
    The problem is not only the bullet's ability to pierce the armour, but the energy it transfers through the armour. This company : http://www.d3o.com/ [d3o.com] use a similar technique but instead of leaving it as liquid, they treat it in a way which turns it into a foam structure. I beat the crap out of a friend's elbows and knees with a shovel while he was wearing d30 stuff, and he didn't feel a thing. It's quite amazing.
  • by NevarMore ( 248971 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @06:39AM (#15823855) Homepage Journal
    1) The 'injured stormtrooper' fan film.

    2) What if he shot you in the face?
  • Cornstarch (Score:3, Informative)

    by PhotoGuy ( 189467 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @07:10AM (#15823933) Homepage
    Sounds a bit like corn starch. From my PMK days (sigh, Alisha), I remember seeing demos of cornstarch mixed with water. It appears liquidy, but if you smack your hand down in it, it turns to a solid instantly and temporarily, so no splashing occurs. Kinda freaky.

    The WikiPedia [wikipedia.org] entry actually has a video of this.
  • Snow Crash (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @08:06AM (#15824102)
    Sounds like the stuff that Hiro Protagonist wears to deliver pizza..

    "Sintered Armorgel ; feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books"

    Maybe they should ask Neal Stephenson about using that as an ad slogan.

  • Also good for sports (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gulik ( 179693 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @10:17AM (#15824648)
    Another company, d3o Labs [d3o.com], has developed a similar substance, but they've been adapting it to sports [theengineer.co.uk] applications -- ski racing suits, hockey pads, and sneakers.
  • Gloves... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by waferhead ( 557795 ) <waferhead@NOspAM.yahoo.com> on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @10:22AM (#15824685)
    Everyone has forgotten their classic SciFi.

    Nice pair of Deerskin gloves with a layer of this inside would make brass knuckles so obsolete...
  • Non-Newtonain Fluids (Score:5, Informative)

    by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @10:45AM (#15824819) Journal

    I became suspicious when I read the phrase "nano bits of silica". Nano technology my big toe: that's a marketing flourish.

    The article mentions that this is a sheer thickening fluid, what they probably mean is shear thickening. That would be a fluid where the coefficient of viscosity increases with increasing strain rates, instead of remaining the classically Newtonian constant. In this case it's probably because the glycol tangles around the silica particles and can't untangle quickly.

    While it's quite possible the material can become a semi-solid for the brief duration of a dynamic impact there is no reason to believe, and lots of reasons to not to believe, it becomes a particularly strong solid. In a particulate reinforced composite, which this is in its pseudo-solid state, the matrix (the ethylene glycol) is important to the strength and being a simple organic molecule it's strength must be on the same order of, say, polyethylene.

    TFA itself infers this, noting the original idea of using the material itself (in peanut-butter mode) didn't work out. Instead it is employed as the matix in a conventional fiber composite using Kevar or Spectra or something like that as the workhorse.

    As in all conventional fiber composites, the fiber bears the load, the matrix supports the fiber. In this case the support, I conjecture, amounts to preventing the fibers from displacing away from the impact point, probably allowing fewer layers of fiber to absorb a given impact energy.

    Whle this is innovative and a good idea, it's hardly liquid armour. What I would hope for and maybe expect is better performance against pointy, hard, teflon-coated projectiles of the cop-killer variety which work by nosing the fibers out of the way.

    • by technococcus ( 990913 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @12:11PM (#15825401) Homepage Journal
      Teflon-coated bullets [wikipedia.org] are teflon coated to reduce barrel wear, not to provide any performance increase with respect to penetrative capabilities. Other lubricants are often used, but teflon works very well even with high velocity projectiles. Handloaders who shoot USPSA/IPSC handgun competitions often lube their bullets to decrease wear on their 1000USD high-polish barrels. "Cop-killer" is a sensationalist name first applied to Teflon-coated bullets and later to Jacketed Hollow Points when that term was all the rage in the liberal media. Remember, only YOU can prevent the spread of FUD!
  • Bill Hicks (Score:3, Funny)

    by giminy ( 94188 ) on Tuesday August 01, 2006 @01:16PM (#15825942) Homepage Journal
    Bill Hicks predicted the future:


    "What's that?"

    "Musket repellant."

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"