Now, The Economist (11 December 2010) reports that shapeshifting material, or “liquid armor,” is being tested by BAE for high-tech body armor.
Traditional body armor contains about 30 layers of protective Kevlar; however, by using the new material between the protective fibers, BAE is able to reduce the layers of Kevlar to just 10, making for lighter and more comfortable protection.
The secret to the liquid armor is that it is made of “shear-thickening fluids” from nano-engineering particles of silica, which provide the shapeshifting properties: “The molecules in such liquids are closely packed, but loosely arranged. The material behaves like a liquid in normal conditions…[but] if subjected to pressure though [like from a projectile], the molecules lock together and behave like a solid.”
In the body armor, when the fluid sandwiched Kevlar is struck by a bullet, the molecules in fluid lock together and spread the impact, thereby absorbing it more effectively.
This seems like an exciting development applying chemical engineering to protecting the warfighter and law enforcement officers.
What is also so cool is that the concept of shapeshifting being a potent force showed up almost two decades ago in movies and television—and once again we have life imitating art (so to speak)!
Hollywood captured the shapeshifters in both the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series (1993-1999). In Terminator II, a shapeshifting cyborg is sent back in time to try and kill John Connor, the leader of the resistance against the cyborgs. The shapeshifter takes on the form of the various people and things to try and get Connor, but ultimately in thwarted by the original Terminator (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger). Similarly, in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Otto is a shapeshifting constable on the space station that protects the station and the Star Fleet command making frequent use of his abilities to shift forms, but always returning at rest to his liquid state to rejuvenate.
I’ve got to say that I applaud Hollywood and continue to see it as not only a creative core for our entertainment, but also a prescient forbear to technology and events to come.