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With the advances in moldable, bulletproof materials, where do you see the future of bulletproof technologies?

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Posted Date: 8/17/2015

This week’s thought-provoking question is based on a popular HDIAC Spotlight, which features NRL’s new, moldable material that can improve transparent bulletproof armor for vehicles and face shields, etc. We encourage lively discussion and feedback according to the Discussion Guidelines

Researchers are developing a transparent, bulletproof material that is more durable than glass and can be molded into numerous shapes.


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Welcome to HDIAC's new Question of the Week. I am Jessica Hill, the publication coordinator for HDIAC. I hope to see some lively discussion this week regarding moldable, bulletproof materials.

Spinel has applications across the board in the Department of Defense (DoD). Besides bulletproof eye protection and body armor, spinel can be used for all optics. Spinel will enable camera lenses to be scratch resistant. Spinel is also relevant to the alternative energy sector, as solar panels, wind turbines, wave harnessing and other forms of energy capture could use spinel to build lighter, less-expensive, stronger and longer-lasting infrastructure. In the private sector, spinel could replace standard glass in eyeglass lenses, cell phone faces, laptop screens, automobile windshields and home windows. Research in material science will inevitably result in components that will not only help create a new norm, but also change the existing. How exciting!

I definitely agree that the capabilities of having bulletproof materials are endless. In particular, the military is always looking for material that provides extra protection for both personnel and equipment, while having the ability to be transparent. By implementing the Naval Research Laboratory's ceramic material, known as spinel, I think it definitely gives potential to strengthen military vehicles against bullets, flying projectiles and other means of impact damage. It will definitely be interesting to see if this material will be implemented further within military and civilian applications.

The superiority of this material to glass is impressive (infrared transparent, no cracks, durability, etc.). The material could easily become ubiquitous in military and civilian life, if the development cost can be successfully reduced.  I would be interested in knowing how brittle the material is, what the weight reduction from current bulletproof glass is, and how strong the material is. 

The applications for this new technology seem to be many. However, I wonder if this new glass-like material will differ from glass in its refractive qualities, or if it can be made to be truly as translucent as glass can be. It would seem that many of the applications that this technology offers could be limited by its quality in these terms. Even if the translucency and refraction differ from that of glass, I still see this as a game-changer due to its reduced weight and increased resilience.

In addition to all of the aformentioned applications and uses, there are even broader possibilities with the aviation industry, including military and cilian aircraft, as well as UAVs, drones, or UAS.  

Additionally, the prospects to improve the protection of civilian and military buildings / structures is equally as exciting.  This could potentially limit the damage to infrastructure during attacks, natural disasters, or other unexpected catastrophic events.