When a bomb explodes, you can't outmaneuver it; you probably can't even take cover quickly enough to protect yourself. Instead, you have to hope that there's something—anything—already in the way that can shield you from the blast. Here are five of the best future bomb-proof materials that could end up saving lives in our increasingly uncertain future.
Imagine a building whose structure was entirely bomb-proof. Thanks to research from the University of Liverpool, UK, that's not an unlikely idea. They've developed a new kind of bomb-proof concrete, which uses a higher cement content and less water than usual, along with only the very finest silica sand as its aggregate. But the real secret lies in the fact that a series of short, narrow steel fibers reinforce the material, giving it a tensile strength 10 times higher than that of normal steel-reinforced concrete. As well as buildings, the researchers want to make bomb-proof trash cans out of the stuff..
If blast-resistant concrete needs steel to hold it together, you'd be forgiven for thinking that explosion-proof glass is an impossibility—but you'd be wrong. While the kind of glass used in, say, Obama's limo is thicker than a 300-page novel, researchers are working on something much slimmer, that would make it easier to use in everyday situations. The Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate has created a new type of bomb-proof glass which sandwiches long glass fibers—in the form of a woven cloth soaked with liquid plastic and bonded with adhesive— between two slim sheets of glass. As strong as the thick stuff but much slimmer, it'll be easier to install in normal buildings and cars.
In 1990, an amateur inventor called Maurice Ward appeared on British TV demonstrating a supermaterial he'd invented without any scientific training. Called Starlite, it could withstand temperatures of 1000 °C, could easily be painted on to surfaces—and could even withstand a nuclear blast. In 2011, however, Ward sadly passed away, without ever having explained to a single scientist how Starlite worked. But there may still be hope: Ward mentioned in one interview shortly before his death that his family knew about the Starlite recipe. Here's hoping they spill the beans someday.