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Intelligent molecules revolutionising impact protection


A new material which is set to revolutionise the way we protect our bodies from impact and injury is being launched by specialist technology company d3o Lab. d3o Lab were granted a government SMART award in 2001 and following a significant breakthrough they secured a second award in 2003 for the development which is now nearing commercialisation.

Since 2000 Richard Palmer and Dr. Phil Green have been working out of the University of Hertfordshire’s research and development centre, and a design studio in London on this exciting new technology.

The inspiration for d3o (dee-three-oh) first came when materials scientist Dr Phil Green found himself sitting off the piste in the Alps in 1999, nursing a bruised elbow after a snowboarding accident.

"It occurred to me that all the available impact protection systems work on a macro scale, and because of this they are restrictive, uncomfortable and actually pretty ineffective. I knew if I could get a system to work at a molecular level we could have an amazing product. Five years of research later we do - d3o," said Phil, who is Technical Director at d3o Lab.

d3o, is a unique material made of intelligent Molecules. They flow with you when you move but on shock lock together to protect you, returning to their original state when the impact is over.

Dr Green explains, "The molecules simply flow past each other at low rates of movement when you are moving your body naturally, but when they are subject to an impact that requires the molecules to move very quickly they instantaneously lock together by linking with each other to form a protective barrier. As soon as the impact has passed they immediately unlock to provide flow and normal flexibility. This all happens in less than a 1000th of a second, and the faster they are impacted the more quickly they react: true intelligence!?

The story of one of the most well-known step change technologies in the sports market, Gore-Tex,? has many similarities with d3o. Before Gore-Tex? you had to compromise your comfort for the sake of keeping dry. d3o works in the same way, allowing you to have protection that doesn?t compromise your freedom of movement ? revolutionary. While the protection equipment currently on the market is bulky and unsightly, d3o can be integrated directly into clothing and is light, breathable, washable, flexible, allowing total freedom of movement.

d3o Lab’s Managing Director, Richard Palmer, said: "Sometimes it’s hard to convince people what a truly amazing innovation this is until you demonstrate it. I was wearing a prototype shirt incorporating d3o, and at one point I stood up and slammed my elbow onto the table as hard as I could, sending coffee cups flying. Once they saw me doing that - without flinching - they understood what I was saying."

Richard Palmer | alfa
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