While weapons continue to grow smarter and smarter, the U.S. Army is developing armor to match the arms. A new 'intelligent' armor under development at the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center can evaluate its own condition, identify the type of round being shot at it, and even generate electrical power from bullet strikes. Whether wrapped around a tank or an infantryman, the smart armor can relay information to soldiers in real time, extensively upping battlefield awareness.
The armor works via piezoelectrics, which essentially turn mechanical energy into electricity (and vice versa). Two piezoelectric sensors are placed within the armor, one that turns a small electric charge into a tiny vibration, and another that turns the vibration back into an electric charge. If the armor plate is damaged, some of the current won't be recycled at the second sensor, and a computer can then tell exactly what shape the armor is in.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.