D3O

D30 is a flexible material that hardens when struck before returning to normal.
The material’s structure can be imagined like a pool, when gently entered it offers little resistance but if jumped into with speed feels far more solid, as with a pool if one dives in using a single point of contact it is much easier to push through the surface, no matter the speed.
D3o if often used in body arrmour for gravity sports and motorbikes, offering flexibility and protection.

D3O offers an interesting collection of materials all of which feature a special ability, able to be flexible while at rest or in a state of gentle movement, but able to harden if impacted, before returning to their flexible state. This feature means the material ‘dilatant’ material, like cornstarch in water, known as Oobleck. This offers significant improvements when absorbing impacts and shows why the company has explored everything from D3O reinforced jackets for skiers to military helmets and body armour.

Few things to understand though before getting too excited:

  1. D3O is not magic, if you smack it with a sledgehammer it’s only going to absorb so much of the impact.
  2. D3O, like many materials, is vulnerable to a pointy stick, it’s not designed to stop cutting or piercing impacts and while it can absorb some of that energy that’s not where it excels.
  3.  As a result, D3O works best in a system, paired with other materials which can help complement its abilities.

That said it’s still an incredible material and offers some interesting options for those looking to create flexible but impact-resistant concepts. It can be shaped by a few processes but can’t be reformed once it has taken this form without losing its dilatant properties. Currently it only comes in orange.

The above video does a great job of not only explaining what’s going on in D3O but a very honest review of what it can do. It highlights how D3O offers benefits above traditional foam pads for motorcycles. There are even one of my favourite material tests of all time in it (around the 3:12 mark) which involves one grown man beating another with a frying pan that helps illustrate the protection D3O offers.

 

 

Material category Plastic
Manufacturing properties Produced through
Recyclable? Limited

 

 

Key limitation Can only absorb so much of an impact, and is vulnerable to piercing and cutting forces.
Relationships Similar to Oobleck, Poron XRD, and POC VPD
Maker D3O

Poron XRD is a similar foam-like material, offering its own dilatant properties. It’s a perhaps cheaper but also more limited alternative to D3O. It currently is used a lot in the shoe soles of work, hiking and podiatry options,

xrd-poron

Oobleck is cornstarch and water, acting like a liquid when at rest or moving slowly it quickly hardens when impacted, allowing people to run across pools of it or enabling it to form odd patterns when exposed to vibrations.

Image credit: Jean-Christophe

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POC VPD body armour is even more proprietary than D3O. Offered by the company POC who make gravity sports equipment their VPD armour is another dilatant material. It’s incredibly impact-absorbing, with the company testing the armour against motorbike impact standards.

This is one of the many pieces of gear that D3O produces, the youtube channel also covers many of their other products.