Sunday, December 19, 2010

Liquid Body Armor

I was listening to a podcast the other day about body armor. It was pretty sweet. It kind of tied in with what I was learning about in my molecular biology class, namely that scientists are trying to get bacteria to grow genetically engineered spider silk and use that material for armor or rope or whatever you want a super-lightweight and super-strong material for. Spider silk has some pretty amazing mechanical properties. Maybe I'll write about that one day...

Anyway, they were talking about body armor and how there is a problem with it. If it's really strong, you can't move--but if you make it so you can move easily, it's not so safe. And they have a solution. They have suspended silica particles in a type of oil that is really easy to move in, but once it's hit by a fast moving object (like a bullet) it stiffens up and makes a hard shell.

It's pretty much like an enhanced version of oobleck (cornstarch and water). You can roll it up in a ball, but when you set it down, it turns into a liquid again.

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