A 21-year-old Air Force cadet named Hayley Weir may have revolutionized the U.S. bullet proof vest. Possessing a knack for chemistry, the young cadet has created a body armor material with all the strength of the current models, at about a third of the weight, Fox News reports.
Her method was to combine shear-thickening fluid with anti-ballistic fabric, which she demonstrated to Air Force Academy Assistant Professor Ryan Burke by mixing cornstarch with water in a bowl. “I jam my finger right into this bowl, and I almost broke my finger! Hayley’s laughing because I’ve got this finger that I’m shaking and I’m saying, ‘You know, that’s pretty impressive stuff.'”
Won over by the impressive display, Burke set out helping Weir refine her idea for several months in a small lab at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. They even received guidance from Dr. Jeff Owens, Senior Research Chemist at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
Many of the chemical combinations they came up with to create the perfect shear-thickening-anti-ballistic fabric concoction failed time and time again on the firing range. One day, finally, their quarter-inch thick design stopped a 9mm round from a handgun multiple times. To keep Weir and Burke’s design honest, the range safety officer pulled his .44 magnum, stating, “This will fail.”
“We loaded it in and it stopped it. And it stopped it a second time, and then a third time,” said Burke.
At this point they realized the full meaning of their invention: A fabric that could that could potentially lighten the average 26-pound body armor kit worn by servicemen in the field by as much as two thirds – and could be used in other aspects of military equipment in the future as well.
“This is something that our competition doesn’t have right now,” Weir explained. “And with this advantage our soldiers, if they wear this body armor, will be able to move faster, run farther, jump higher.”
For her tremendous discovery and potential the Air Force gifted Weir a full-ride scholarship to Clemson University, where she will earn her Master of Materials Science and Engineering, before returning to the Air Force to bless them with even greater innovations.
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