PROVO – Brigham Young University’s engineering professors have created an origami-inspired, lightweight bulletproof shield that can protect law enforcement from gunfire.

The new barrier can be folded compactly when not in use, making it easier to transport and deploy. When expanded — which takes only five seconds — it can provide cover for officers and stop bullets from several types of handguns.

BYU says that BYU researchers, working with law enforcement, learned much of what is currently used hasn’t evolved much from medieval times: shields that are mostly flat, awkward plates that cover only one person. Current barriers are so heavy and cumbersome they make it difficult for officers to move into position.

The barrier Howell and his colleagues designed is made of 12 layers of bulletproof Kevlar and weighs only 55 pounds (many of the steel-based barriers in current use approach 100 pounds). The BYU-built barrier uses a Yoshimura origami crease pattern to expand around an officer, providing protection on the side in addition to protecting them in the front.

In testing, the barrier successfully stopped bullets from 9 mm, .357 Magnum, and .44 Magnum pistols.

“Those are significant handguns with power,” Howell said. “We suspected that something as large as a .44 Magnum would actually tip it over, but that didn’t happen. The barrier is very stable, even with large bullets hitting it.”

The researchers constructed the barrier prototypes to be extremely stiff and protective throughout, while also maintaining the flexible qualities of Kevlar fabric so they can be folded compactly. Since Kevlar fabric is subject to fraying, abrasion and is sensitive to sunlight and water, the team also made a concentrated effort to reinforce it against the environment.

(BYU, HSNW)