Over the last few thousand years, the basic design of body armor hasn't really changed very much. From the sturdy plate armor of medieval times to the modern kevlar vests of today, the idea is virtually the same - to use hard materials to stop projectiles from reaching your body. And while this is a fairly good, albeit primitive, design, it now stands on the brink of becoming obsolete, as the military is currently developing a whole new generation of body armor. Introducing: Liquid body armor.
What is liquid body armor?
Liquid body armor is an entirely new concept in defense technology. It basically revolutionizes the traditional view of armor by removing the need for heavy pieces of hard materials - instead replacing them by much lighter liquid-based fabrics. There are more than one way of using liquid based technology in body armor, and there are currently two main types being developed: STF and MRF.
Shear thickening fluid
At the moment, the most promising method of achieving an effective liquid body armor is by using an STF (Shear Thickening Fluid). Basically, an STF is a liquid consisting of molecules which have the ability to shift into a solid state when exposed to pressure. When a fabric is combined with such a liquid, it will behave as normal fabric during ordinary use - But as soon as it is subjected to high pressure (such as from the impact of a bullet) it instantly solidifies, becoming a temporary hard armor that stops the bullet and absorbs the force of impact.
Magneto rheological fluid
The alternative to STF is called MRF (Magneto rheological fluid), which works in an entirely different way. Unlike STF, the MRF-based armor doesn't solidify on impact, but instead hardens by will of the user. Basically, MRF consists of tiny, nano-sized particles of metal mixed with various liquids. By applying a powerful magnetic field to this liquid, it hardens to form a solid metal "plate". So this is pretty much just a futuristic version of the medieval plate armor, although much more flexible and lightweight.
But even though this method would create the strongest and safest body armor, it is not a priority in development. This is mainly because they have yet to discover a way of triggering the magnetic field fast enough during an attack, instead of the user having to manually activate the armor every time he needs it.
The advantages of this technology are vast and many. Using these liquid based systems has the potential of making existing body armor obsolete, as the possibilities for this new type of armor are endless. With the decrease in weight and increase in flexibility, liquid body armor could potentially be made as light and easy to wear as regular clothing, which would allow for full-body armor instead of just vests that only protect the chest area.
Within a few years, this technology could be used to increase the safety of military and law enforcement personnel everywhere. And although this is not yet a combat-ready technology, laboratory tests have shown that the technology itself works, and will soon supplement or replace traditional body armor in military and law enforcement use.