The material was engineered using something called “intelligent molecules.” “When moved slowly, the molecules will slip past each other, but in a high-energy impact they will snag and lock together, becoming solid. In doing so they absorb energy,” explained Richard Palmer, the inventor of the substance who created the company d3o (which now sells the goo like substance with the same name). Once the pressure is relieved, the material restores itself to its original flexible state.
d3o sheet material is currently offered by the company in two geometries –the 4/6 mm “Mesh” and the 10mm-thick “Contour” – both available at a size of 330 x 400 mm. d3o Mesh is a perforated textured sheet, which the company says was specifically designed for applications requiring good flexure and medium levels of impact protection. It allows for more comfort and breathability than the thicker “Contour,” whose architecture provides higher levels of impact protection. According to the company, Contour has an ergonomic 3D structure that has been specifically designed to work in synergy with the material properties in areas where there are high levels of geometric change (e.g. elbows) such that the texture “densifies” on flexure to optimize the protection afforded.
The company currently focused on developing body-protective d3o-based products in hopes to replace the traditionally bulky and rigid protection which is commonly used in active sports. However, sportswear isn’t the only niche d3o scientists aspire to reach – the company has recently partnered up with Cat Footwear, launching the “ERGO FlexGuard” – the “first flexible external metatarsal guard work boot featuring anatomically moulded d3o metatarsal guard with the ability to bend and flex as the wearer moves through a range of motions.” According to the company, the boot protects the user’s instep and metatarsal areas when the foot is exposed to “drop” hazards. “Upon impact,” say the inventors, “d3o, which is encased in leather – absorbs the shock and resists the impact, protecting the wearer from injury.”
Among other products which already utilize d3o technology are motorcycle race suits, shin guards, ballet shoes, and horse-riding equipment.
TFOT has previously covered a number of innovative research studies in the field of material science – you are welcome to read our article on lonsdaleite, which has tested as harder than diamond when compressed. Be also sure to check out our article on an innovative technique for controlling the nature of graphene, discovered by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.