Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Air Force Academy Cadet Invents Goo That Can Literally Stop Bullets
There are a lot of ways to stop a bullet. Feet of concrete work. A few dozen pounds of steel work, too. Modern fibers like Kevlar work, if you have enough.
But a senior cadet at the Air Force Academy may have come up with something better: A thin coating of gravy.
It's a special gravy, to be sure. But it's not that different from the cornstarch-thickened substance best served over breakfast biscuits.
And it would stop Dirty Harry's .44 caliber magnum as a snack.
Yet it's flexible enough to bullet-proof, ahem, intimate areas.
"Like Under Armour, for real," explained cadet Hayley Weir, a Highlands Ranch native who has applied for a patent on her spicy recipe.
Weir, who graduates from the academy this month, is an academy chemistry department dropout who came up with the idea in class.
A professor had asked cadets to think up ways to stop a pistol bullet. She thought of a child's toy called Oobleck, which has a really scientific second name: a non-Newtonian fluid.
Those fluids, made with substances like cornstarch, are gooey and oozy to a gentle touch, but become as hard as steel when struck.
That means when a object traveling with a lot of force strikes the goo, it runs into something like Superman's chest.
Weir has a collection of mushroom-shaped spent bullets to prove it.
Weir's idea gained traction last year when she partnered with academy military and strategic studies professor Ryan Burke, an ex-Marine.
Burke's Marine Corps experience told him that Weir had stumbled on to something important.
"It's going to make a difference for Marines in the field," he said.
Burke called some Marine Corps contacts who shipped materials to test the new bullet-stopping stuff.
In an academy lab, Weir mixes up batches of her secret formula, a viscous black goo. She says it's less like science and more like baking a cake.
"I use a KitchenAid mixer," she explained.
The substance is put in vacuum-seal bags normally used for leftovers and flattened into an quarter-inch layer.
That is layered into a wafer with Kevlar fabric.
"It's all about the layering," Weir said.
The result was first tested on a gun range in Jack's Valley, the training area on the northern edge of the 18,500-acre academy campus.
Weir and Burke hit the armor with shot after shot of 9 mm fire. The goo stopped the bullets.
A firearms instructor offered up a .44-caliber pistol round for a tougher test. The .44 magnum bullet, legendary in firearms circles, has been used to successfully hunt elephants.
Despite the increased weight of the bullet and its higher velocity, the gooey armor worked better.
What happened is part of the magic of gravy: When impacted the molecules in the gooey substance jam together. The bigger the impact, the bigger the molecular traffic jam and the better the ability to resist penetration.
That means that Weir's goo has the potential to replace steel plate as armor.
"It's the properties of non-Newtonian fluids that do this," she said.
Having a cadet come up with ground-breaking ideas is nothing new at the academy, which prides itself on having the best undergraduate research programs on the planet. Cadets have designed satellites and airplanes. They've also worked on making diesel fuel from algae, tiny hydrogen fuel cells and new molecules that could clean up chemical weapons.
Weir's experiments have captured the imaginations of some of the Air Force's top scientists.
Weir and Burke recently traveled to the Air Force Civil Engineer Center in Florida to demonstrate their invention. It worked as well there as it had at the academy.
The center took to its website to laud the invention, calling it "incredible."
"We're very pleased," Dr. Jeff Owens, senior research chemist, said in a statment. "We now understand more about what the important variables are, so now we're going to go back and pick all the variables apart, optimize each one and see if we can get up to a higher level of protection."
The flexibility of Weirs weird armor has researchers thinking big.
Wafering the stuff into fabric could lead to tents resistant to mortar and artillery fire.
Weaving it into a blanket could giver firefighters and cops protection when they work to pull people out of mass-shooting scenes.
On the battlefield, it could drive body army that actually protects the entire body - rather than the torso protection now given to troops overseas.
Weir is hoping to continue her research after graduation this month. She hopes her gravy saves lives.
But her invention hasn't gone to her head.
"I don't feel like I am that much smarter than the average person," she said,
©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
What started as a wildly popular Facebook hoax titled Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us back in June has since morphed into a real live event. That's right, the long awaited day is upon us.
As of Friday morning, people have begun to make their way to the secret U.S. military installation in the Nevada desert in search of answers to the questions that plague us all: Are we alone in the universe? Is our government secretly hiding a bunch of aliens? Just how fast can I "Naruto run" past the base gate? And how far can we take a joke with the U.S. military?
The Marine Corps is loading up one of its experimental unmanned ground vehicle with a buttload of firepower.
The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is working on a prototype of its tracked Expeditionary Modular Autonomous Vehicle (EMAV) with a remote-controlled .50 caliber machine gun turret and a specialized launcher for kamikaze drones to accompany Marines in urban environments, Military.com reports.
An Air Force civilian has died at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar in a "non-combat related incident," U.S. Air Forces Central Command announced on Friday.
Jason P. Zaki, 32, died on Wednesday while deployed to the 609th Air Operations Center from the Pentagon, an AFCENT news release says.
At a time when taxpayer and foreign-government spending at Trump Organization properties is fueling political battles, a U.S. Marine Corps reserve unit stationed in South Florida hopes to hold an annual ball at a venue that could profit the commander in chief.
The unit is planning a gala to celebrate the 244th anniversary of the Marines' founding at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach on Nov. 16, according to a posting on the events website Evensi.
QUANTICO, Virginia -- They may not be deadly, but some of the nonlethal weapons the Marine Corps is working on look pretty devastating.
The Marine Corps Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate is currently testing an 81mm mortar round that delivers a shower of flashbang grenades to disperse troublemakers. There is also an electric vehicle-stopper that delivers an electrical pulse to shut down a vehicle's powertrain, designed for use at access control points.
"When you hear nonlethal, you are thinking rubber bullets and batons and tear gas; it's way more than that," Marine Col. Wendell Leimbach Jr., director of the Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate, told an audience at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.