Softening the blow

A material that is flexible when worn but becomes hard on impact will be protecting World Cup footballers from injury later this year.


d3o has collaborated with goalkeeping apparel makers Sells to make protective goalkeeping gloves that will be worn by Poland’s Jerzy Dudek and Norwich goalkeeper Robert Green, who is in the England squad. They feature d3o mesh, a perforated textured sheet which is flexible in normal use but stiffens and provides medium levels of impact protection when impacted.


Under normal circumstances, the molecules in d3o mesh are free-flowing as they have time to move over each other, allowing the material to be soft, flexible and malleable. However, on impact, the molecules form temporary cross-links with each other, transforming the material into a stiff state, in addition to absorbing the energy from the impact. As soon as the impact is over, the molecules unlink, returning them to their original free flowing state.


Shinpads made using the material were tested against two standard models using a pendulum impact rig based on the EN 1621 impact test, at an impact energy of 20 joules. Pressure film was positioned under the damping material. The pads were then impacted at three different locations, and the results were averaged.


The shinpad with d3o mesh reduced transmitted force by 70% compared to the control. Pressure results showed a less intense imprint for the d3o pro pad, which could result in a reduction in bruising in use.


d3o material is also used in skateboarding shoes, soft hats that act as helmets, ski race suits and polo knee pads.