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Based on the same principles of how a cornstarch solution hardens on impact, Singapore researchers have invented a new flexible, lightweight, impact-resistant composite material. Not quite body armour made out of cornstarch but scientists from Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and the National University of Singapore have used the same scientific principles to invent a new made-in-Singapore lightweight, flexible, and simple to make composite material capable of dissipating high impact energy.

The material is a composite which consists of a polymer and a combination of other materials engineered through a patented method developed in Singapore. It works based on the concept of shear thickening, meaning the material is soft and fluid at rest but becomes rigid upon impact, just like a cornstarch solution. When moved gently, the molecular chains that hold the material together can ‘slide’ past one another, hence giving the material a soft consistency. In other words, the material will bend and flex smoothly under lightly applied force. But hit it or make sudden movements and the molecular chains do not have time to react properly and become entangled turning the material rock-solid. Similar shear thickening fluid-based materials technology involves encapsulating it within a foam matrix. The secret to the new IMRE-NUS material lies in how it’s made - with a patented method that not only allows it to be more flexible and soft without the need for foam encapsulation, but also helps the material spread out high-impact force much more effectively and quickly than other products.

[Ref: Press release: July 28, 2010;