U.S. Naval Research Laboratory scientists have developed and patented a transparent armor they say reduces weight while maintaining strong defensive properties.

The armor is made from thermoplastic elastomers, rubbery polymers capable of being processed like thermoplastic plastics when heated. According to a study published by Ceresana in January 2015, the material can be melted, repeatedly deformed and recycled.

The polymers are converted by physical means instead of a chemical process, a property researchers say makes the armor easily and quickly repairable.

“Heating the material above the softening point, around 100 degrees Celsius, melts the small crystallites, enabling the fracture surfaces to meld together and reform via diffusion,” senior investigator Dr. Mike Roland explained in apress release. “This can be accomplished with a hot plate, akin to an iron, that molds the newly forming surface into a smooth, flat sheet with negligible effect on integrity.”

Prior to testing the polymers for armor, NRL researchers used the material as a coating to enhance impact resistance on hard substances. By adding thermoplastic elastomers, they can make material transparent and lighter than conventional protective material.

“Because of the dissipative properties of the elastomer, the damage due to a projectile strike is limited to the impact locus. This means that the affect on visibility is almost inconsequential, and multi-hit protection is achieved,” Roland said.

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