Friday, April 20, 2012

A Better Bullet Proof Vest

The concept of body armor has been utilized since the Middle Ages.  These days the majority of police officers wear armor.  Their armor is a second-chance vest, more commonly referred to as a bullet-proof or bullet-resistant vest.

These vests utilize multiple layers of a strong fiber to 'catch' and deform a bullet.  Instead of penetrating the vest, the force of the bullet is spread throughout the fibers which deforms the bullet.  Although the wearer will suffer the trauma of the force of the bullet, it will not penetrate the skin.  Although the fabric of the second-chance vest is not designed to withstand impact of sharp instruments (such as knives), many have the options of adding a metal plate to increase protection of vital areas.

There are various types of vests on the market.  Some are lightweight and easy to maneuver in.  Some, such as those made of Kevlar, are heavier and less wearer-friendly.  Vests also only protect the center of the torso, in an effort to protect vital organs.  Do to the force absorbed by the wearer, damage can still occur from the blunt force (similar to being struck with a bat or pipe dependent on the distance of the shot being absorbed).  However, a new technology not yet on the market is looking to change that.

BAE Systems, a major defense and security company, is currently working on what can best be referred to as a super gel.  The gel is formerly referred to as Shear Thickening Liquid.  The liquid has freely suspended particles that bind together when they are disturbed.  Stewart Pinney, head of business development at BAE, described it as, "Imagine slowly stirring a container of Shear Thickening Liquid: You would feel little resistance initially, and the faster you stir the more the resistance would increase."  In a bullet-resistance mode, the fluid would almost instantaneously lock together when it was hit; both deflecting the bullet and absorbing the impact.

It is speculated that this 'super gel' could actually be used between layers of Kevlar vest.  This would give the benefits of Kevlar and the of the super gel.  Only, this merged technology vest would be up to 45% thinner and lighter than today's conventional vests (and significantly lighter than today's Kevlar vests).  The gel also spreads out the area that the bullet force is absorbed, significantly decreasing the natural inward bend of traditional vests.  This significantly reduces the possibility that the wearer will suffer the trauma associated with being hit in a regular vest.

This new technology in body armor is currently still under research.  Although it is being designed and tested for use by warfighters in the US Military, BAE Systems is fully aware of the usefulness it would have for first responders such as police officers and ambulance crews.

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