USAF ACADEMY, Colo. -
An Air Force Academy cadet and professor believe they've engineered a new substance that could revolutionize bullet resistant body armor.
The high tech stuff could prove to be quite a boon to police and soldiers in the field.
It's not faster than a speeding bullet....but it can stop one.
"It was my old advisor in the chemistry department who was thinking about these things called non-Neutonian fluids and how they might have an application in body armor," said Cadet 1st Class Hayley Weir, set to graduate on Wednesday.
Weir will graduate with a degree in military strategy. But it was as a chemistry major that Weir first started experimenting with bullet resistant materials.
"I had done 6 months of research on the project before i decided to switch majors and i didn't want to throw that in the garbage," Weir said.
The Academy allowed her to continue her research as part of a capstone project, partnering her with veteran Marine and military studies professor, Ryan Burke, Ph.D.
"She told me that she had this idea to create a better, lighter weight, more flexible body armor system. And of course I'm skeptical, given that I've worn a lot of body armor. I know what goes into body armor. Its heavy, its inflexible, it's cumbersome," Burke said.
Weir's idea was to use a non-Neutonian fluid combined with kevlar to stop bullets. The fluid is not fully a liquid or a solid but can change its viscosity based on the amount of force applied to it.
A standard military-grade bullet resistant vest weighs about 25 pounds. Burke believes shaving off a few pounds from a vest could mean a world of difference to military personnel in the field.
"We have a saying in the Marine Corp that ounces make pounds in the field. When you have something like this that weighs 25, 26 pounds and you're carrying that....a reduction in 3, 4, 5 pounds, although it sounds fairly insignificant, I can promise you to a Marine, or Soldier, or Sailor, or Airman, that's a big deal."
The substance is able to stop rounds fired at close range from a 9mm round, to a .40 Smith & Wesson round, to as large as a .44 Magnum. Making it capable of being classified as 3A body armor, the type worn by Air Force security personnel.
Weir's invention could one day be used as a protective lining on vehicles, aircraft and in tents to protect people from shrapnel or gunfire.
Weir has been offered a scholarship from Clemson University to continue her research and hopes to develop civilian uses for her patent-pending substance.