Liquid Armor

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Liquid Armour is a material under research by defense institutions and universities around the world including the United States Army Research Laboratory (ARL).[1][2][3] Some of the earliest research in this area was performed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology [4] and University of Delaware[5] in 2003.

Typically, it consists of Kevlar that is soaked in one of two fluids - either a shear thickening fluid or a magnetorheological fluid.[6] Both these fluids show the unique behavior of behaving like a liquid under low or normal pressure and solid under high pressure or applied fields. The shear thickening fluid is made with polyethylene glycol and the solid part is made of nano-particles of silica. This liquid is soaked into all the layers of a Kevlar vest.[7] The magnetorheological fluid consists of magnetic (typically iron) particles in a carrier fluid such as oil. They respond to a magnetic fields by increasing in viscosity dramatically almost acting like a solid.[8]

BAE Systems has also been researching a similar Kevlar vest with a fluid between layers of the polymer, and this attracted a fair amount of press in August 2010. BAE took over the US research company Armor Holdings who were doing research based on suspensions of silica particles.[9][10]

Fluids used for this purpose are non-Newtonian. Shear thickening fluids(or STF), which are the same as dilatants is one type of a non-Newtonian fluid. Magnetorheological fluids(or MRF) are another type of non-Newtonian fluids that also belong to a class of fluids known as smart fluids

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Liquid Armour