JACKSONVILLE, Fla., -- Armor Holdings, a leading manufacturer of security products and vehicle armor systems serving military, law enforcement, homeland security and commercial markets, announced today that it has been selected as an exclusive licensee for a unique application of nanotechnology, currently referred to as shear thickening fluid (STF), that has the ability to enhance the performance of ballistic fabrics and protective armor products.
Developed by the University of Delaware's Center for Composite Materials, in partnership with the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, testing has indicated that the technology appears to allow conventional ballistic fabrics to increase the level and quality of protection they provide without compromising their weight, comfort or flexibility.
Under active development for the past five years, STFs are special materials with nano-particles that exhibit properties normally associated with both solids and liquids, but are rarely found in the same material. Sometimes referred to as "liquid armor," the material is actually a nanotechnology that exists in a flexible, fluid-like state under normal conditions but adopts seemingly rigid qualities and becomes less penetrable when impacted. As a result, this special material can be applied to conventional ballistic fabrics or other materials used in armor applications, allowing them to remain flexible under normal wear, but simultaneously becoming resistant to penetration when impacted by a spike, knife or high velocity projectile or fragment. STF treated fabrics effectively spread the energy over a larger area.
Dr. Tony Russell, Chief Technology Officer for Armor Holdings, Inc., said, "Going back to the Middle Ages, developing armor has involved a constant balance between the need for protection and the need for comfort, flexibility and light weight. Rarely do the words 'flexible' and 'armor' get used in the same sentence, but this new technology has the potential to unlock entirely new and better solutions that will leapfrog to the next generation of armor and other lifesaving equipment. The scientists at both ARL and UDTC have done an outstanding job of creating the core technology and demonstrating its advantages. We are proud to have been selected to assume development responsibility for this important technology and we look forward to rapidly fielding products that will help better protect those who operate in harm's way. This represents an important new addition to the Armor Holdings portfolio of core technologies and further allows us to select and apply the best material for each application."
Extensive testing conducted by UDTC and ARL has demonstrated that when treated with STFs, a conventional ballistic fabric can resist penetration from an ice pick that would otherwise easily penetrate the fabric. However, further testing and applications in the field may be needed to understand fully the properties of STFs. In addition, fabrics treated with STF have been shown to reduce "back face deformation" (an indication of blunt trauma) from high energy ballistic impacts. Importantly, treating the fabric with this material has little or no effect on the look, feel, texture, weight or flexibility of the fabric.
Armor Holdings, which will be the sole commercial provider of this technology in applications related to body armor vests and extremity protection, helmets and gloves for protective use worldwide, anticipates fielding the first products later this year.
Professor Norman Wagner of the University of Delaware and Dr. Eric Wetzel of the Army Research Lab, commented, "This has been an extremely successful collaboration between ARL and UDTC and we believe this technology has the potential to yield new and valuable products that will provide better protection to those who need it. Armor Holdings has a proven ability to take technologies, such as this, improve upon them and rapidly develop them into products that can be used in the marketplace. Dozens of dedicated researchers contributed to this project over the past several years and we look forward to seeing the results of their work being used to help save and protect lives."
Robert Schiller, President of Armor Holdings, Inc., said, "This is a very important development for Armor Holdings and underscores our leadership in the area of developing life safety and survivability systems for members of the armed forces, law enforcement and correction officers and private citizens. We are constantly striving to develop new and better ways to protect those who protect us. In the past two years, we have fully integrated the R&D capabilities across our various businesses, allowing us to seamlessly adopt the use of technologies such as STF in a wide range of protective applications."
The potential applications of STF include a wide range of products such as body armor, vehicle armor, helmets, gloves and bomb blankets to protect soldiers, law enforcement, corrections and government officials and other industrial safety applications. Armor Holdings has selected Barrday Inc. as a partner for development and production of STF-based ballistic fabrics. Barrday has strong complimentary experience in weaving fabrics from high strength fibers as well as applying films, resins, finishes and coatings for both soft and hard armor applications.
Background on Shear Thickening Fluid
Under the direction of Professor Norman Wagner, the University of Delaware, Center for Composite Materials began investigating shear thickening fluids in the mid 1990s. Beginning in 2000, UD CCM began working in partnership with the Army Research Lab's Materials Research, led by Dr. Eric Wetzel, to create a new armor material. The first promising ballistic results were achieved in 2002, presented publicly at the U.S. Army Science Conference in Orlando, FL, in 2002. The U.S. Army recognized the significance of this new technology by awarding the UD/ARL research team the Siple Award as the best paper at the 23rd Army Research Conference in December 2002. Work on the technology continued throughout 2003 and 2004, with important discoveries of the stab and puncture resistance of the fabric and further refinements in processing and fabrication. A U.S. patent application was filed in May of 2003.