Poland’s Military Institute of Armament Technology in Warsaw has been skunk-working on liquid body armor. Specifically, non-Newtonian Shear Thickening Fluid-based body armor. “Shear-thickening fluids, unlike other liquids, harden when struck by a strong impact,” popsci.com reports. “With shear-thickening fluids (affectionately known as oobleck), the bullet’s force is absorbed by the liquid, then dissipated outwards through the fluid medium.” Previous attempts at oobleck body armor fell afoul of weight restrictions . . .

The problem is that even thin layers of the fluid-Kevlar combination are heavier than multiple layers of Kevlar alone. If Poland’s formula, which the country is so far keeping secret, manages to be as strong without adding in Kevlar or taking on weight, it might clear the way for liquid armor that moves beyond concepts and into actual use.

And if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a trolley car (as my father used to say). Still, what if body armor could protect cops against M855 or other rifle rounds? Would the ATF shut the **** up then?

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43 Responses to Polish Breakthrough on Liquid Body Armor?

        • Thanks for introducitng me to MSBS. I like the look of the bull-pup, like a hybrid between the Tevor and ACR.

      • The Poles aren’t as dumb as the jokes make them out to be. Look up cryptography. Their mathematicians did a lot of early and creative work in code breaking.

        • I was reading that much of the history of “Polish…stupid” jokes stemmed from German propaganda during WWII. During the invasion of Poland, the Polish cavalry (mounted on actual horses!) attacked German armor divisions.

          Their cavalry was traditionally armed with actual lances. In the actual battle, they were armed with anti-materiel rifles, but the German propagandists turned it around, saying that “those dumb Poles” attacked armor with spears.

          If you ask me, I never want to fight a bunch of guys that are willing to take on armor divisions with horses and rifles. Those guy clanked when they walked, and I don’t mean their rifles…

  1. Another bonus: depending on the details, it could be self-healing to a greater or lesser degree, so repeated impacts to the same area could be less of an issue.

    This is very exciting, although I suspect such impact armor would find first widespread use on vehicles rather than individuals.

    • If it acts similar to water/cornstarch mix multi-hit capability should be good. The stuff just flows back after a hit.

      Mix some up in a bowl then punch it repeatedly and you’ll see what I mean.

        • Self healing is a relative term. (It’s also a very slow process) The biggest issue would be the coating of fluid that would quickly cover the puncture site and prevent a seal.

      • Cornstarch in water is a dilatant fluid. The fluid here exhibits rheopecty, a markedly different property.

    • Try watching the video at the top of the page. There are people literally running on the surface of non-newtonian fluid and not falling it. Repeated hits with the full weight of a person and it looks fine to me.

      • I’m talking about leakage from a damaged plate. Once the fluid bladder is damaged… adios muchachos

        • Oh ok. I thought you meant the non-newtonian fluid wouldn’t be able to sustain multiple hits

    • The problem with STF *(shear thickening fluid) impregnated Kevlar, or straight STF is keeping it static so that it can do it’s job effectively. If all your STF pools at the bottom of your ballistic panel, it’s not doing you any good. You need to find a way to bind the STF in place on a vertical or sloped surface without diminishing it’s ability to absorb rapid impact.

      If the Poles have come up with a method to stabilize STF so that it will stay in one spot, regardless of orientation worn, user movement, etc, that’d solve most, if not all of the barriers to new body armor designs.

      I imagine the first commercially available products would be existing kevlar panel designs with stabilized STF. Also, if the stabilizing process is robust enough, leakage wouldn’t be too big an issue as it’d adhere to whatever support matrix the panel was made of. Multiple hit capability should be good too, assuming whatever hits it doesn’t punch all the way through.

      The other questions are how much magnitude of improvement does it yield? Would something the same weight/thickness of a NIJ 2A vest yield the same protection level as, say, IIIA or IV SAPI plates, or some fractional increase over what it’s original, non-STF enhanced version would?

      • Why couldn’t you take the spongy-gel thing out of a motionless waterbed and use that to stabilize the fluid? Conceptually I mean…. use a overlapping layers of a sponge like material that is impregnated with the ooblek. Make smaller pockets of the stuff, then make multiple layers that overlap so the weakness in any one layer is reinforced by the layers underneath.

  2. Poland may have some success in this realm, they are extremely interested in doing what’s right for (aka protecting) their military personnel, but on the other hand they are also very interested in showing Russia they are military-minded and not a weak target. Nothing may ever come of this outside of progress report, but on the other hand we do have the “ACR V2” with bullpup conversion kit coming to the states soon.

  3. It seems like weight savings isn’t the only possible use for something like this; if you use more standard tech (kevlar, ceramic, AR500) for the big areas, but then have something like this for joint coverage you could dramatically increase protection with a small mobility penalty, or dramatically increase mobility with a small (or no) protective penalty. That’s what non-Newtonian fluids excel at relative to solids; being liquids.

    • My theory/wild-a$$ concept of STF is this: you find a way to impregnate kevlar/whatever panels with goop that hardens when kinetic energy moving over a certain delta is applied, while remaining as flexible as standard panels otherwise, and remains where it’s bound, not puddling/accumulating at the lowest spot due to gravity.

      This allows you to make vests/panels that can be wrapped around torsos, shoulders, etc, and provide improved protection without impacting mobility.

      The magnitude of how much improvement is yet to be determined. It could be something that marginally increases the protective capabilities of existing soft armor, or could be some wonder material that you could coat a T-shirt with that would give it protective capabilities on par with ESAPI plates or better. Until more details are forthcoming, it’s all speculation.

  4. No, the BATFE will not ever shut up. If they ever did, they’d be disbanded like they should have been from the get-go. It’s a matter of survival for most any goobermint office to find new ways of justifying its own existence and for its own sake, a.k.a. screwing us over in every conceivable way.

  5. While from a chemical-properties-of-materials perspective, oobleck-as-body-armor is fascinating; I wonder what practical advantages it might provide? Is it the increased mobility afforded by the non-rigid armor?

    • The dream material is something you can treat a light, breathable and comfortable material like cotton with, that wears like normal under ordinary conditions, but protects like ESAPI plates when struck by bullets or other impaling objects. Shear thickening fluids, currently, hold some promise of being able to deliver something approximating that ideal when bonded to kevlar. The trick is getting the fluid to stay where you originally place it and not seep down into a puddle at the bottom. At least as far as I understand it.

  6. “Liquid body armor” really does sound like those old polish invention jokes.

    This is cool, I’ve been wanting to hear an update on this concept fir a while.

  7. Maybe ShootingTheBull410 would mix up a batch of cornstarch and water, crank up the FPS, and fire a few things into it just for fun. Oh, and science. I’d buy that for a dollar.

  8. This property is known in English language technical parlance as ‘rheopecty’ or, sometimes, ‘anti-thixotropy’. Printer inks are the most common application of such fluids today.

  9. Queen of Hearts Paradox here. If this indeed does make armor more bullet resistant then time to make better armor piercing bullets, cartridges, and firearms 🙂

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