Engineers at Brigham Young University in Utah created an origami-inspired, lightweight bulletproof shield that can protect law enforcement from gunfire.
The barrier can be folded when not in use. When expanded—which takes five seconds—it can provide cover for officers and stop bullets from several types of handguns.
In working with law enforcement, BYU researchers learned that what is in current use hasn't evolved much from medieval times: shields that are mostly flat, awkward plates that cover one person. Current barriers can be so heavy and cumbersome that they make it difficult for officers to move.
The barrier that the engineers designed is made of 12 layers of bulletproof Kevlar and weighs 55 pounds (many of the steel-based barriers in current use approach 100 pounds). The BYU-built barrier uses a Yoshimura origami crease pattern to expand around an officer, providing protection on the side in addition to protecting them in the front.
In testing, the barrier successfully stopped bullets from 9 mm, .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum pistols.
The researchers constructed the barrier prototypes to be stiff and protective throughout, while also maintaining the flexible qualities of Kevlar fabric so they can be folded compactly. Since Kevlar fabric is subject to fraying, abrasion and is sensitive to sunlight and water, the team also made an effort to reinforce it against the environment.
In addition to protecting police officers, researchers believe the barrier could be used to protect children in a school or a wounded person in an emergency situation. Although the ballistic barrier is now in prototype form and not currently in use by any law enforcement agencies, researchers have tested it with officers on site.