In the world of protective materials, there appears to be a fixed trade-off between four key attributes: weight, transparency, structural integrity and shock absorbance. Reinforced glass, whilst shock absorbent and transparent, is heavy. Moreover, once impacted, damaged areas lose their transparency. Light materials such as kevlar are not capable of transparency and have no structural integrity. The demand for light, transparent materials capable of withstanding damage without losing their transparency is large and growing, touching on aerospace (£600m), consumer electronics (£1.6bn) and defence (£6bn).
Synbiosys is developing an optimisable composite, protective material platform. Whilst also lighter than glass, Synbiosys’s first product retains both structural integrity and transparency, unlike Kevlar or ceramics. If successful, this technology will apply equally to packaging, windshields, mobile phone screens and anti-ballistic armour for soldiers and military vehicles.
They have so been part-funded by grant funding from the UK Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), and are ahead of schedule in delivering their technical milestones, having so far achieved both transparency and ballistic protection in partnership with labs at Imperial College London.
“The main requirement for a transparent armour system is not only to survive impact and provide effective protection but to also protect against multi-hit capability with minimal optical distortion around damaged areas.” – DSTL