Iron Man may be a fictional character in the land of comic books and Hollywood adaptations, but is such a suit out of the real of possibility? Apparently the U.S. Special Operations Command is determined to find out. They've teamed up with some of the brightest minds and researchers from various universities and laboratories to see if an Iron Man-like suit could be created for military applications.
The goal is to build superior body armor than what's available today, as opposed to being able to fly up into the atmosphere like a tin version of Superman. Efforts to build better armor are already underway, having been inspired by a soldier who broke through a door to rescue a hostage, but was ultimately killed by the Taliban on the other side.
"Why haven't we put effort into ensuring particularly that guy going though the door is protected to the maximum capability that we can provide him, as a nation," Adm. Bill McRaven asks.
The concept project is called TALOS, or Tactical Assualt Light Operating Suit. This isn't something that will be completed any time soon, as it will take up to two years just to select which technologies to pursue. The first challenge is to build stronger body armor, plain and simple.
One potential path is being researched by Norman Wagner, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware. He's examining nanotechnology to create armor that contains particles smaller than a single red blood cell. It's a material that's almost a liquid ceramic, which can be dipped in Kevlar fabric to make it tougher the instant a bullet hits.
"It transitions when you hit it hard," Wagner says. "These particles organize themselves quickly, locally in a way that they can't flow anymore and they become like a solid."
Oversimplified, it's a liquid that becomes a solid for better protection. And that's just the beginning. Pretty cool, isn't it?