Transparent shrapnel shield

A transparent barrier system designed by an engineer at the US Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories might one day help protect VIPs from would-be assassins.

A transparent barrier system designed by an engineer at the US Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories might one day help protect VIPs from would-be assassins, police from rioters, and crowds from bomb shrapnel.

Keith Snyder of Sandia’s Test Equipment Design Department originally designed the system as an inexpensive alternative to surrounding a large rotating centrifuge with concrete, steel, and soil to protect workers from flying machine debris in the unlikely event of an accident.

Snyder combined several commercially available products into a unique shielding system that is far less expensive and quicker to build than the 4-foot-thick concrete walls or underground bunkers normally relied on for safety containment of heavy rotating machinery.

The barrier system includes sheets of polycarbonate glazed into frames made from Unistrut (commercially available pre-drilled steel bracings that fit together like pieces of meccano).

To make sure the barrier could contain whatever was flung at it, Snyder took it to the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas where it was subjected to a series of projectile impact tests.

Sandia recently received a US patent on the modular barrier system for both machine-containment and security applications. Snyder says he’d be interested in sharing the barrier design and performing testing to make the system available for public use, should the need arise.