Hayley Weir, a 21-year-old Air Force cadet, had a million dollar idea that is actually quite genius. It is a bulletproof material that could be used in everyday armor. She said,”It was just the concept of going out there and stopping a bullet with something that we had made in a chemistry lab.”
Weir’s idea was to combine anti-ballistic fabric with what’s known as a shear thickening fluid to create a less heavy material to use in body armor. She demonstrated the principle to Burke by combining water and cornstarch in a container and asking the professor to jam his finger into the paste-like goo.
Convinced, Ryan worked with Weir for several months in a small lab at the Air Force Adacemy in Colorado Springs. They were helped and advised by Dr. Jeff Owens, Senior Research Chemist at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
They tried combining several different ingredients to come up with the exact formula for the shear thickening fluid, and the correct way to layer it with ballistic fibers.
“The pieces are not new,” Weir explains, “everything that we’ve used in there has been researched (before) in some capacity for ballistics protection.”
They tested their combinations on the firing range, failing time and again, until one day their quarter-inch thick design repeatedly stopped a round fired from a 9mm handgun.
Weir and Ryan’s excitement was tempered by the range safety officer who pulled his .44 Magnum and told them bluntly, “This will fail.”
Ryan says, “We loaded it in and it stopped it. And it stopped it a second time, and then a third time.”
They realized they had hit on something special, that could potentially lighten the average 26-pound body armor kit worn by servicemen in the field by as much as two thirds.
Weir said, “This is something that our competition doesn’t have right now,” she continued. “And with this advantage our soldiers, if they wear this body armor, will be able to move faster, run farther, jump higher.”
There is such a huge world of possibilities for a material like this and it could honestly be a huge game changer.