Intelligent materials protect sports lovers

An intelligent plastic that is so flexible when left to its own devices while flow like a very slow moving liquid, but hit it with a hammer and the intelligent molecules form which it is made stiffen up instantaneously and absorb the energy of the blow. Such a polymer has been incorporated into textiles and clothing to create lightweight and flexible body armour for high-impact sports and other activities to save users from serious impact injuries. The polymer and textile-embedded material was the brainchild of UK company d3o, which has recently worked with a sports clothing manufacturer to develop a range of protective gear.

There was a video that demonstrated how to protect a falling egg using this material. This would make an excellent science fair project: compare different packaging materials for protecting eggs – cardboard, polycarbonate, d30 intelligent material. Unfortunately, the vid is no longer available.

The smart material is made up of a matrix of polymers with tiny pockets filled with a fluid. In normal wear, the material moves freely with your body movements but if you take a dive, the intelligent molecules in the fluid stiffen in less than a thousandth of a second, which makes them absorb the energy of the impact It works because under normal conditions, the polymer molecules move and slide across each other, but when they are put under rapid shear stress in an impact, for instance, the polymer molecules immediately form cross-links with one another and the material stiffens to take the brunt of the impact. Once the force is removed, the polymer cross-links are disengaged by further low force movements and the material reverts to its flexible state.

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