The US Naval Research Laboratory announced a major breakthrough in materials science on Thursday. After decades of research and development, the NRL has created a transparent, bulletproof material that can be molded into virtually any shape. This material, known as Spinel, is made from a synthetic powdered clay that is heated and pressed under vacuum (aka sintered) into transparent sheets. "Spinel is actually a mineral, it's magnesium aluminate," Dr. Jas Sanghera, who leads the research, said in a statement. "The advantage is it's so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments -- so it can withstand sand and rain erosion."
What's really cool is that unlike most forms of commercially available bulletproof glass -- which is formed by pressing alternating layers of glass and plastic sheeting together -- Spinel doesn't block the infrared wavelength of light. That means that this stuff can protect a UAV's surveillance camera or the lens of a HEL-MD laser without hindering the device's operation. Plus, Spinel weighs just a fraction of a modern bulletproof pane. "If you replaced that [pane] with spinel, you'd reduce the weight by a factor of two or more," Sanghera continued. The NRL now plans to share the Spinel production process with the rest of the defense industry.