The Ministry of Defence has awarded £100,000 to a small company that has developed a special substance that hardens immediately on impact.
It is hoped that the shock-absorbing substance will soon be fitted onto the inside of soldiers' helmets reducing in half the kinetic energy of a bullet or piece of shrapnel and hopefully making them impenetrable.
The gel, called d3O locks instantly into a solidified form when it is hit at high impact.
"When moved slowly, the molecules will slip past each other, but in a high-energy impact they will snag and lock together, becoming solid," said Richard Palmer, who invented the gel. "In doing so they absorb energy."
The d3O gel has already expanded into a range of sporting goods and is found in ski gloves, shin guards, ballet shoe pointes and horse-riding equipment. The substance relies on "intelligent molecules" that "shock lock" together to absorb energy and create a solid pad. Once the pressure has gone they return to their normal flexible state.
The gel is stitched into clothing or equipment that is supple until it stiffens into a protective barrier on impact.
If the product is taken on by defence contractors it could be used to reduce the current bulky and restrictive armour used by troops in on the frontline with gel pads inserted into key protective areas.
Mr Palmer said it was the equivalent to comparing "cumbersome" RoboCop to Spiderman with the latter's protection "nimble covert and flexible".Original here