Boffins have created a liquid body armour suit that hardens and absorbs shrapnel on impact using – ‘bullet-proof custard’.
Researchers have produced the chemical formula and have combined it with traditional kevlar to create the ‘super armour.’
The suit works using a viscous compound which, when attached to traditional kevlar, absorbs the force of the bullet and responds by becoming thicker and more sticky.
The pioneering technology has been created by a team of scientists at the global defence and security company BAE systems in Filton, Bristol.
It is hoped the compound – the formula of which is being kept a closely guarded secret – could be rolled out to front-line soldiers and potentially save thousands of lives.
Experts say the liquid, nicknamed ‘bullet proof custard’, could be used to make much lighter, more flexible and effective armoured vests for soldiers.
It uses ‘shear-thickening’ technology has previously been explored by the US military but it is the first time that useable body armour has been developed.
Stewart Penney, Head of Business Development for Design and Materials Technologies at BAE Systems, said: ”It’s very similar to custard in the sense that the molecules lock together when it’s struck.
”The technology is best explained by the example of stirring water with a spoon.
”In water you feel little resistance to the spoon. Whereas with ‘liquid armour’, you would feel significant resistance as the elements in the fluid lock together.
”The faster you stir, the harder it gets, so when a projectile impacts the material at speed, it hardens very quickly and absorbs the impact energy.”
The technology uses ‘shear thickening’ fluids which ‘lock’ together when subjected to pressure and enhances material structures like Kevlar.
Troops currently struggle with heavy and bulky body armour which can restrict and inhibit movement, causing problems in hot war-zones like Afghanistan.
But the liquid armour requires less material, meaning it is smaller and lighter, which allows a wider coverage of the body and greater manoeuvrability.
The technology can be integrated into standard Kevlar body armour to offer increased movement and reduce the overall thickness by up to 45 per cent.
Scientists tested the material by firing a ball bearing-shaped at over 300 metres per second into two test materials – 31 layers of untreated kevlar and 10 layers of kevlar combined with the shear-thickening liquid.
Mr Penny added: ”The Kevlar with the liquid works much faster and the impact isn’t anything like as deep.
”In standard bullet-proof vests, we use thick, heavy, layered plates of Kevlar that restrict movement and contribute to fatigue.”
When added to Kevlar, the fluids in the liquid armour restricts the motion of the ball-bearing, dispersing the impact energy over a surface area.
Experts hope the research could also be rolled out to other lines of defence.
Mr Penny added: ”In addition to increasing the ballistic performance of combat body armour there is potential for developing a version that could be of interest to police forces and ambulance crews.”