Smart armor being developed by scientists and engineers at U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Michigan can not only predict its own failure, but also identify the size of bullets shot at it and even generate electrical power upon impact..
Intelligent armor is based on piezoelectrics, or materials that generate a small voltage when bent. The reverse is also true: Apply a small voltage, and a piezoelectric material will bend.
Each plate of armor, whether its [sic] wrapped around a soldier's body or vehicle's chassis, has two piezeoelectric sensors attached to it.
An electric current flows into one sensor and turns it into mechanical energy in the form of a tiny vibration that ripples through the armor plate. The other piezoelectric device takes that mechanical vibration and turns it back into electrical energy.
Anywhere from five to 15 volts of electricity is pumped into, and out of, an intact plate of armor. If the armor has been damaged by bullets, shrapnel or anything else, some of the current released into the armor won't be picked up on the other end.
By measuring just how much energy is lost, the TARDEC scientists can determine how damaged the armor is.