Explosion Resistant Coating

A new variety of spray-on coatings is helping to make everything from ships to vehicles more resistant to the blast effects of high explosives.

The attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) in October 2000 mobilized researchers to find ways to make steel and other metals more blast resistant.The attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) in October 2000 mobilized researchers to find ways to make steel and other metals more blast resistant.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Following the attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) in October 2000, ONR funded the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division to assess the hull structure along the waterline of combatant ships and to develop technologies that would strengthen ships’ hulls and avert rupture from a close-in underwater explosion. As a result of this investigation, a specific polymer was identified—explosive resistant coating (ERC)—that would mitigate the effects of an explosion if the material were applied to a ship’s hull material.

After the events of 9/11, research efforts were intensified to broaden use of ERC as part of various systems to protect against blast and ballistic penetration. These investments resulted in predeployment armor upgrades that were used by the U.S. Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom to improve the protection of high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles against ballistic penetration, land mines, and improvised explosive devices. In addition, a spray-on ERC armor called “dragon shield” was developed and fielded within several months and installed on various military vehicles in theater.

During the 2000s and early 2010s, ONR funded several programs at Navy laboratories and multiple universities to develop a solid understanding of the behavior exhibited by these types of polymers under the extreme conditions of blast and ballistic penetration. In 2008, ONR initiated investigations of how ERC could be used to offer protection against mild traumatic brain injury. Recent test results on instrumented mannequins subjected to blast events have demonstrated that a specific ERC applied to the exterior of helmets can mitigate effects of blast pressure significantly without increasing weight. Recent experiments on extreme pressure and strain rate conditions revealed that the shear strength of ERC is greater than all engineering materials, on a weight basis.

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