d3o self-hardening gelEnlarge Photo
The new technology is a special gel called d3o, which was developed by British chemical engineering company d3o Lab. The gel is described as a dilatant material and has the ability to harden almost instantly when violently impacted, such as from the force exerted from a speeding bullet or an oncoming car. In its natural state it resembles play dough.
Military groups are currently looking at the material as a lightweight and flexible padding for armored vests and this has led automakers such as Mazda to investigate d3o’s use in an automotive setting.
Speaking with Carsguide, Mazda’s European R&D chief, Peter Birtwhistle, said innovations such as d3o were "fascinating" and presented "glimpses of future design".
He went on to explain that d3o could be used around a car’s cabin, such as in the lining of seats or around a baby’s bassinet. "It has unlimited applications in a car to protect its occupants," he said.
Products using d3o gel are already readily available and include items such as mobile phone protectors, ski jackets and motorbike gloves.