The idea that buildings may be able to repair their own damage, especially in war zones, is a thrilling one, and one that the United States Army is looking to explore in greater depth. This was evidenced by today's announcement that the Army has awarded a contract for $275, 642 to Applied Nanotech Holdings to develop a line of glass fiber-reinforced composite panels to protect buildings from damage on a variety of fronts.
The panels are geared to help buildings withstand a lot of different potential kinds of damage, including ballistic damage (damage from small-arms fire), blast damage (damage from explosives), seismic events (damage from earthquakes), electromagnetic interference, and degradation. But what Applied Nanotech is looking to develop is even more impressive, including protection against biological warfare and a self-healing property as well as carbon nanotube reinforcement.
The contract represents the third such contract that Applied Nanotech has picked up from the United States Army for a total value of $825,000, and oddly enough, the technology in question originally began as protective gear for sports, but the sheer “versatility and strength” of the product, according to Applied Nanotech's CEO Dr. Zvi Yaniv, gave it a variety of other applications, including military use. In fact, Yonex Corporation has licensed some of Applied Nanotech's technology to make a line of lightweight and high-impact badminton rackets and golf clubs.
While the protective capabilities of building-sized wall panels are somewhat suspect, it's an excellent jumping off point for superior quality body armor, a commodity that's sorely in need in battlefield situations. It's often easier to develop something large before shrinking it down to more useful sizes—just look at the differences in computers over the last fifty years—and the giant building-sized panels could turn into vests and knee protection in comparatively rapid fashion once the bugs get worked out of the giant panels.
However the end results turn out, it's not hard to be in favor of most anything that keeps soldiers safe on the battlefield. There's also plenty of chance that the developments will find their way to consumer markets, especially since Applied Nanotech has already been working on sporting goods. The end results will remain to be seen, but there's plenty of room for Applied Nanotech to branch out, and the results should be impressive, whatever they turn out to be.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman