DARPA is asking scientists to advise on how to develop Polymer Ice, a polymer-based all-temperature artificial ice material that will cause enemy troops to slip, but is reversible when allies pass.
The Polymer Ice programme aims to replicate the properties of black ice, a thin, translucent, slippery coating of ice on road surfaces that forms spontaneously in cold temperatures, but for use in a broad range of hot, arid environments such as found in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A non-toxic reversal agent, carefully matched to the chemical characteristics of Polymer Ice, will be developed to rapidly restore traction when applied to a Polymer Ice-coated surface. The reversal agent will also be incorporated into combat boots and tyres, to achieve instantaneous traction restoration on contact and keep friendly troops on the move.
DARPA likens this effect to having the ability to run effortlessly on wet ice, while adversary mobility is severely restricted.
DARPA envisions that a Mobility Control System would consist of Polymer Ice, or raw materials used to produce Polymer Ice in real-time, a spray-on reversal agent, boots and tyres with built-in reversal agent, a dispersal means, and a way to clean-up the reversed material.
The agency says Polymer Ice would constrain adversaries to specific areas, control ingress and egress to buildings, make it difficult for adversaries to shoot and pursue, and gain time for combatants to act.