Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Developing ‘Force Fields’ to Protect its Soldiers from being Blasted to Death


(Photo : Boeing) Drawing accompanying Boeing's patent application for a force field.

The increasing use of Active Protection Systems (APS) to protect tanks and other armored fighting vehicles from missiles has revived interest in an alternative defense system that sounds far-fetched but is being developed in the U.S. right now: a force field.

The Boeing Company patented a force field device that intends to protect humans from the effects of explosive blasts. The device, which was patented last March, isn't intended to prevent tanks and AFVs from being blown-up.

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Instead, it focuses on saving the lives of soldiers riding in lightly armored vehicles by diminishing the dangerous effects of the deadly shockwaves generated by an explosion. Shockwaves from an explosion can cause brain damage that manifests over time as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other brain injuries.

Boeing applied for a patent for a "method and system for shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc." The device that accomplishes this effect combines a sensor and a high energy laser that work together to create what's called a "plasma shield."

The sensor triggers the laser after it detects a blast. An "arc generator" on the vehicle generates high-intensity laser pulses that excite and heat air molecules in the space between the vehicle and the blast site. It creates an electric arc that travels along the electrically conductive path produced by the laser.

That massive energy directed into empty space produces a bubble called a "Laser-Induced Plasma Channel" or LIPC (a sort of a force field).

The LIPC absorbs and deflects much of the incoming energy from the shockwave.

This system might also slow down or deflect shrapnel propelled by the shockwave. LIPC won't be able to stop or deflect a shell or missile aimed directly at a vehicle, however.

The device detects an explosion and estimates the time and location of the explosion. A signal from the sensor then fires the laser. The system will rely on a database of bomb explosion signatures so it knows just much energy to use to create the plasma shield.

This "anti-shockwave" deflects and dissipates the incoming shockwave and the shrapnel traveling with it so that what reaches the soldier is a very much weaker shockwave and fewer pieces of shrapnel.

This complicated technology means it will take years and probably over decade for Boeing to develop a model that works as advertised. But the fact Boeing's working on this tech means there's a really big chance it might see the light of day some day.

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