Current “liquid armor” bullet resistant technologies perform impressively against projectiles and edged weapons, but aren’t as spectacular as the name implies. These “liquid armors” are really “liquid enhanced” DuPont™ Kevlar® fiber; they make for good bullet resistant barriers, but don’t look appreciably different from their conventional counterparts.
“Magnetic liquid armor,” on the other hand, could be downright mesmerizing. “Magnetorheological fluids,” like the one shown below, hold the promise of bullet resistant panels that rise up like waves to swallow threats.
AN INTRODUCTION TO “FERRO FLUIDS”
More commonly called “ferro fluid,” magnetorheological liquids (or “MR liquids”) are so-called “smart fluids,” made by mixing iron nano-particles and oil. In the absence of any magnetic field the MR liquid flows freely, but when magnets are present it hardens, with its form following the shape of the magnetic field.
BULLET RESISTANT PANELS FROM IRON AND OIL
The US Army, working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, is already working on integrating MR liquids into new and existing bullet proof panels and armor. MIT researchers have seen promising results applying magnetic fields to microtubules filled with MR liquids, instantly transforming flexible sheets into rigid panels. Although the technology is decades away from being “battlefield ready,” it shows promise in applications ranging from body armor to instantly-hardening electromagnetic “bomb blankets,” pop-up ballistic barriers, and remoldable, modular bullet resistant panels.
According to MIT mechanical engineer Gareth McKinley: “The particles that we’re using now look like soccer balls. They’re spherical. If you were to stack a pile of those together, you don’t get very far. What would be better would be to have faceted particles, particles with flat faces, or particles that look more like donuts. You could stack a pile of donuts on top of each other.”
This would result in a much more rugged stand-alone surface. Picture a matte black paint that could, at the flick of a switch, harden any wall to a bullet resistant panel.
MAKE YOUR OWN FERROFLUID TOYS
You won’t be stopping any bullets with these, but you can begin experimenting with ferro fluids at home using nothing more exotic than cooking oil and laser printer toner: