BAE Systems To Protect Frontline Troops With Liquid Armour

Farn­bor­ough, UK — A coun­ter­in­tu­itive liq­uid which hard­ens when struck has been devel­oped by BAE Sys­tems as part of a project to cre­ate future body armour offer­ing sol­diers greater bal­lis­tics pro­tec­tion and ease of move­ment in com­bat sit­u­a­tions.

The tech­nol­o­gy, dubbed ‘liq­uid armour’ by sci­en­tists and engi­neers at BAE Sys­tems, har­ness­es the unique prop­er­ties of shear thick­en­ing flu­ids which ‘lock’ togeth­er when sub­ject­ed to a force to enhance the exist­ing ener­gy absorb­ing prop­er­ties of mate­r­i­al struc­tures like Kevlar.

Ceram­ic based armour plates used in cur­rent body armour sys­tems to cov­er large areas of the tor­so are heavy and bulky, restrict­ing move­ment and con­tribut­ing to fatigue, par­tic­u­lar­ly in harsh envi­ron­ments like Afghanistan.

Liq­uid armour has been designed to address a require­ment for mate­ri­als which can offers troops increased pro­tec­tion with reduced mass, wider area cov­er, greater manoeu­vra­bil­i­ty and easy inte­gra­tion with oth­er sys­tems. The tech­nol­o­gy can be inte­grat­ed into stan­dard Kevlar body armour to offer supe­ri­or, free­dom of motion and a reduc­tion in over­all thick­ness of up 45 per cent.

Stew­art Pen­ney, Head of Busi­ness Devel­op­ment for Design and Mate­ri­als Tech­nolo­gies at BAE Sys­tems, said: “The tech­nol­o­gy is best explained by the exam­ple of stir­ring water with a spoon. In water you feel lit­tle resis­tance to the spoon. Where­as with ‘liq­uid armour’, you would feel sig­nif­i­cant resis­tance as the ele­ments in the flu­id lock togeth­er. The faster you stir, the hard­er it gets, so when a pro­jec­tile impacts the mate­r­i­al at speed, it hard­ens very quick­ly and absorbs the impact ener­gy.”

When inte­grat­ed with Kevlar, the reduced flow of the flu­ids in the liq­uid armour restricts the motion of the fab­ric yarns in rela­tion to each oth­er, result­ing in an increase in area over which the impact ener­gy is dis­persed. As a result, the mate­r­i­al is also far less like­ly to dis­tort than stan­dard body armour, which gen­er­al­ly bends inwards when a bul­let strikes, pre­vent­ing death, but caus­ing con­sid­er­able pain.

Tri­als con­duct­ed at BAE Sys­tems’ Advanced Tech­nol­o­gy Cen­tre in Fil­ton have shown the liq­uid armour allows thin­ner than stan­dard armour to with­stand equiv­a­lent lev­els of forces. An ear­ly pro­to­type of the tech­nol­o­gy has been demon­strat­ed to the UK Min­istry of Defence and in the future BAE Sys­tems hope to fur­ther devel­op liq­uid armour to cre­ate a super light­weight ver­sion of the mate­r­i­al and incor­po­rate the tech­nol­o­gy into body armour sys­tems.

The team at BAE Sys­tems is con­sid­er­ing appli­ca­tions of the tech­nol­o­gy beyond the mil­i­tary. Stew­art Pen­ney said: “In addi­tion to increas­ing the bal­lis­tic per­for­mance of com­bat body armour there is poten­tial for devel­op­ing a ver­sion that could be of inter­est to police forces and ambu­lance crews.”

About BAE Sys­tems
BAE Sys­tems is a glob­al defence, secu­ri­ty and aero­space com­pa­ny with approx­i­mate­ly 107,000 employ­ees world­wide. The Com­pa­ny deliv­ers a full range of prod­ucts and ser­vices for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced elec­tron­ics, secu­ri­ty, infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy solu­tions and cus­tomer sup­port ser­vices. In 2009 BAE Sys­tems report­ed sales of £22.4 bil­lion (US$ 36.2 bil­lion)

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Kate Watcham, BAE Sys­tems
Tel: +44 (0) 1252 383550 / + 44 (0) 7793 420731

Har­ry Ronald­son, Biss Lan­cast­er
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7467 9218 Mob: +44 (0)772 0773 258

Issued by:

BAE Sys­tems, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 6YU, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1252 384719 Fax: +44 (0) 1252 383947
24hr media hot­line: + 44 (0) 7801 717739

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BAE Sys­tems