A Look at 3 of the Wildest Advances in Bulletproof Body Armor from 2017

When you think of bulletproof materials, foam, glass, and slime aren’t likely to be the first to come to mind. But all three made an appearance in 2017, leading to significant advances in body armor design and effectiveness, forging a path toward increased safety for military personnel and law enforcement officers.

These solutions demonstrate significant out of the box thinking, but could also lead to better protection for members of the US military and police forces who put themselves in danger in the line of duty.

Here’s a look at each of the materials.

Bullet-Destroying Foam

Specialty types of foam, called composite metal foams, or CMF, are being explored at North Carolina State University to help stop even armor-piercing rounds from penetrating body armor, according to a report by Fox News.

During tests, the research team fired a 7.62 x 63 mm M2 armor-piercing bullet at the foam body armor with the result being that the round was decimated, turning them into a powder. Plus, the bullet only created an 8 mm indentation into the back of the material, the portion that faces the wearer’s body, further limiting the risk of serious injury.

The use of foam could make body armor designs ultra-light while providing protection against life-threatening shots.

Bulletproof “Glass”

A material that is almost as transparent as glass is being explored by researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory, with the potential of creating a body armor that is practically invisible. Plus, it can be repaired after being struck, since the glass can meld itself back together with the application of heat, such as by using a clothing iron or hot plate.

Tests also showed that the body armor could reduce injuries related to blast waves after an explosion, such as one may experience when an IED detonates.

Since the material is practically clear, it could be used on helmet visors, providing protection without negatively impacting visibility.

Hagfish Slime

The 330-million-year-old creature known as the hagfish could hold the key to next-gen bulletproof body armor. The hagfish’s slime is made of a mixture of mucus and fibers, typically described as threadlike, making it both incredibly strong and ultra-flexible.

At the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, located in Florida, experts are studying the slime to determine if there are any military applications, and believe that integrating the material into bulletproof vest could result in a lighter and stronger design, even when compared to Kevlar.