Shear thickening fluid armor goes mainstream

Back in February 2009 I wrote about the application of shear thickening fluid to ballistic armor protection. It seems good progress has been made since then. Fox reports:

A revolutionary new armor relies on a liquid that hardens when something hits it, promising unprecedented protection while letting soldiers move freely, unrestricted by bulk and weight.

Protection for warriors has long meant weight and bulk from ceramic plates and Kevlar that cover large areas of the body but reduce maneuverability, agility and speed. And in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning heavy armor can also accelerate fatigue.

The new super gel from global defense, aerospace, and security company BAE Systems means body armor that will provide far greater protection at a drastically lighter weight — with more flexibility to boot.

. . .

Formally known as Shear Thickening Liquid, the fluid has special particles that are freely suspended. The particles collide when the fluid is disturbed, which creates a resistance to the disturbance.

When the force of the disturbance is large enough, the particles will then actually “lock” together. So when a bullet hits the material at speed, the liquid armor absorbs the impact energy and hardens extremely quickly.

. . .

The special liquid can also be incorporated into conventional Kevlar body armor; when put together the liquid and Kevlar provide excellent freedom of motion and armor 45 percent thinner than existing types.

There’s more at the link.

I’ve been watching developments in this field for several years. I’m aware of research in at least two countries to incorporate shear thickening fluid into special armor suits for EOD personnel, giving them much better protection against the hazards of their profession. There’s even a research program investigating whether it could be used to make special boots, offering greater protection for the feet and legs against anti-personnel landmines. This could be a real blessing not only to military personnel, but to the many civilian and charitable organizations working to remove old, forgotten minefields from former combat zones. It’ll also be very useful to police and security organizations, offering them much lighter protective clothing that can be worn with a greater degree of comfort in hot and humid weather.



  1. The major problem is the weight; the technology is a version of some other testing in magnetohydrodynamics 🙂

  2. It seems to me the concept of this armor is to de-focus and diffuse the energy of a projectile. Isn't that kind of what sandbags do (though with a lot of mass?) Or chain-link fence on a tank, against EFP's? I've thought that 'sandwich' armor – layers of hard steel and rubber (flammability issue there, though) might be effective – it sure makes it hard to get an over-tightened oil filter loose.

  3. Weight is the issue, and does it really work. Everyone remembers "Dragon Skin" armor that didn't work as well as we thought it would. This new technology is pretty amazing and I can't wait to see if it will work or not. Then will the military consider adopting it?

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