In a lab at the University of Delaware, Norman Wagner, along with scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, are using ceramic nanoparticles to make a new type of body protector.
They treat soft body armor with shear-thickening fluid and end up with something that can stop a bullet, a knife or flying shrapnel.
Liquid Armor, the UD trademarked innovation, responds when it is hit or shaken and it’s light and flexible, said Wagner, the Alvin B. and Julia O. Stiles Professor of Chemical Engineering and chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering at UD. Wagner invented the shear thickening fluid technology in collaboration with Eric Wetzel, a scientist at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
“For first responders, you get not only ballistic protection with Liquid Armor, but you also gain this additional stab and puncture protection,” Wagner said. “And the material can do all of this while increasing the vest’s wearability.”
He and his team are also working on a specialty application – a highly flexible and protective glove that could be worn by surgeons and other medical professionals to guard against cuts and needle sticks.
“Puncture is a real issue” in health care, he said.
And they are working with ILC Dover, the space suit manufacturer on other possible applications, Wagner said. Liquid Armor is applied to a flexible fiber. It uses tiny bits of silica and polymers that are suspended in sheer thickening fluid. The sheer thickening fluid hardens instantly when it is hit or shaken. Once the stress stops, the body armor returns to its flexible state.
Wagner is working with the University’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP), and with Barrday, a specialty textile manufacturer, to create new Liquid Armor products.
The specialized material gets stronger under pressure, Wagner said.