U.S. and Canadian Olympic skiers are using a brand new high tech material in their ski suits that is flexible in normal use but instantly hardens into protective armor upon impact. The material is called d3o and it’s made from “intelligent molecules” that move slowly so the material is soft and flexible but on impact they lock together forming a hard shock absorbing armor.
The material has been formed into flexible protectors for the knee, elbow, shoulder, hip, coccyx and can be used in helmets and for gloves, too, all of the same places a motorcycle rider looks for protection. An amazing characteristic of the material is that it is not permanently deformed but hardens on impact and becomes flexible again when the impact is over, ready to protect if another impact occurs.
Measuring the actual level of protection is difficult because of this on/off nature of the material but even if it wasn’t up to the highest levels of protection needed by riders the possibility of additional protection in many areas not usually covered by conventional body armor make d3o an extremely positive and welcome development.
As further development continues, we are sure see much wider application in protective gear of all sorts. Remember how Gore-tex started to show up everywhere once people realized the potential? It’s not much of a stretch to think d3o is in the same category. I like this a lot and it will be very interesting to see where it shows up next.
Thanks to Jeff for the tip.