Feb
17
2006

Flexible armor at the Olympics

U.S. and Canadian slalom skiers are wearing lightweight, flexible protective gear made from a new material (d3o) that hardens into armor when it's crashed into.


ski suits: A new material, d3o, means these racing suits are only hard when they need to be. (Photo courtesy Spyder)

Normally, skiers wear hard arm and leg guards to protect themselves from poles along the slalom run. But the Colorado-based skiwear company Spyder created racing suits with d3o along the shins and forearms, and the suits caught on.

The exact chemical composition of d3o is a trade secret, but it's made by combining a viscose fluid and a polymer, then pouring the liquid d3o into a mold that matches the shape of the body part needing protection.

According to a New Scientist article,

"The resulting material exhibits a material property called 'strain rate sensitivity'. Under normal conditions the molecules within the material are weakly bound and can move past each with ease, making the material flexible. But the shock of sudden deformation causes the chemical bonds to strengthen and the moving molecules to lock, turning the material into a more solid, protective shield.

Pretty cool.

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Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

cool i liked that suit on the front page

posted on Sat, 02/18/2006 - 1:28pm
Olivia Sanchez's picture
Olivia Sanchez says:

Can their be games?\r\n

posted on Sat, 02/18/2006 - 5:17pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Who exactly invented those?

posted on Sat, 02/18/2006 - 5:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

okay. so why the heck would you need a suit to be hard when u were skiing? its just kinda pointless.

posted on Sun, 02/19/2006 - 4:59pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Not pointless at all.

Slalom skiers have to make tight turns to pass between "gates" that make up the course. The gates are hard, flexible poles. The skiers pass them at tremendous speeds, and often crash into them.

That's what makes this suit so ideal. It's lightweight and soft most of the time, but the forearms and shins (the areas that most often come in contact with the gates) harden at the moment of impact to protect the skier.

Here's a picture of Olympic skier Bode Miller having a close encounter with a gate (the vertical blue pole in the center of the image.)

Here's what the d3o website has to say:

"d3o has been added to the baselayer tops and the giant slalom race suits worn by the US and Canadian alpine ski teams. d3o is placed in direct contact areas on the race suits such as shins and forearms, and in the Stealth Top on the forearm and elbow area. d3o reactively stiffens on impact to provide protection against 60 mph-plus collisions with race gates. The molecules in d3o lock together instantly with the quick shock of contact, creating a hard buffer to absorb and distribute impact energy. Once pressure is lifted, it reverts back to a pliable material. The reaction is instant and repeatable."

posted on Sun, 02/19/2006 - 5:29pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The suit is tight. I wonder what else they could be used for. Seems kinda pointless for skiing. Wouldn't the weight of the suit slow you down while racing? Just wondering. Overall, the suits are tight but I think they could be used better. My only question is why isn't the army using stuff like this.

posted on Sun, 02/19/2006 - 4:59pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

See the reply to the post above yours for a discussion about why skiers like these suits.

As for your question about weight...No, these suits don't slow skiers down. Before this suit hit the market, slalom skiers wore guards (kind of like the shinguards soccer players wear) on their shins and forearms to protect themselves. But the new d3o suits make extra padding unnecessary. They're soft and flexible unless the wearer hits something. And they harden up (along the shins and forearms, not all over) only at the moment of impact to absorb the blow.

Visit the d30 website (there's a link in the original post) to find out more about how this cool material is being used.

posted on Sun, 02/19/2006 - 5:35pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think this suit is too tight and it would be useless for sking and any other thing

posted on Sun, 02/19/2006 - 5:00pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Too tight? Many Olympic ski races are decided by thousandths of seconds, and skiers need to maximize their speed in every way they can. They wear close-fitting, smooth suits like these to improve their aerodynamics as they fly down the hills. Baggy clothes would only slow them down.

Turn on your TV: all the skiers may not be wearing suits with d3o protection, but they're all wearing suits that look and fit like these.

posted on Sun, 02/19/2006 - 5:39pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Well put Liza, you understand how this works completely! Apparently the US ski teams won't wear anything that is not d3o now, so it must be doing something good!

posted on Sat, 02/25/2006 - 3:27pm
vanky's picture
vanky says:

What are you talking about??????????

posted on Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:08pm
vanky's picture
vanky says:

What are those for did you wear them because if you did you'd look like a real live superman,spiderman,and batman.HA!HA!HA!

posted on Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:07pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

so tell us, how much do these technology suits cost?

posted on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 6:55pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

A quick Google search shows that you can pick up a Spyder d30 men's racing suit for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1000.00. (Cheaper if you happen on a good sale.)

Spendy, but then the new Speedo swimsuits that helped Michael Phelps win all those medals cost a couple hundred bucks, too.

posted on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 10:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

This is an incredible product that needs to expand into many markets. However, among the most obvious is American football. With the number of concussions that occur on a daily basis, you would think a new revelation like this would be immediately researched and applied. I can see contact sport gear totally changing with this product. Athletes would be free to move more naturally and yet receive better protection. What can I do to get involved in this market?

Larry

posted on Mon, 01/10/2011 - 6:39pm

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