Performance-enhancing sporting suits

An entrepreneur from UK has invented a flexible foam material to protect people practicing all kinds of sports. The materials developed by d3o Lab are now used by skiers, skate boarders and soccer goalkeepers among others. But they also should soon be used by the U.S. Army. But read more...

In 'A Superhero Suit for Athletes,' BusinessWeek describes in its inimitable style that an entrepreneur from UK has invented a flexible foam material to protect people practicing all kinds of sports. The materials developed by d3o Lab are now used by skiers, skate boarders and soccer goalkeepers among others. But they also should soon be used by the U.S. Army which wants to develop protective suits to soften the impact for troops when they're hit by bullets. Read more...

So why did Richard Palmer start d3o Lab? Simply because he fell too often. So after looking at the market for protective products and realizing that most of them were not good at all, he decided to develop something better.

Palmer quickly proved he's not just talk. His company, d3o Lab based in Hove, England, developed a futuristic liquid armor that hardens on impact. Today, the shear-thickening (a term that refers to a fluid's viscosity) material -- called d3o -- is used in a range of sports equipment and apparel ranging from soccer goalkeeper gloves to skateboarding shoes. The U.S. and Canadian Olympic slalom ski teams used d3o-enhanced Spyder racing suits in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Below is a picture of the Spyder Giant Slalom race suit that is now routinely used by the U.S. and Canadian Olympic ski teams since the 2006 Winter Olympics (Credit: d3o and Spyder)

The Spyder Giant Slalom race suit

And here is a picture of the Contour d3o goalkeeper glove developed by Sells, a company specialized in soccer products (Credit: d3o and Sells Goalkeeper Products)

The Contour d3o goalkeeper glove

Here are more details provided by d3o about this glove.

The Contour d3o glove boasts a soft and flexible d3o foam punching zone, which stiffens when the goalkeeper punches the ball, providing total protection and a solid platform for the punch. The reaction is instantaneous, lasting 10 milliseconds. In that time, the molecules lock together to absorb the impact energy. When the impact is over, the material returns to its flexible state.

With such specifications, you certainly think that many companies are asking d3o to use its protective material. According to BusinessWeek, the initial reactions were difficult, and Wagner "had to sell his house, cash in his life savings, and even auction off his belongings on eBay."

But now, things seem to be better, with organizations like NAS, Boeing or the U.S. Army knocking on his door. And d3o is talking with about 300 companies to develop new products. As sums out Wagner, "we're going to be the next Gore-Tex."

Sources: Marina Kamenev, BusinessWeek Online, October 13, 2006; and various websites

You'll find related stories by following the links below.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All