The concept from an iconic Star Trek scene is working its way to commercial use, with innumerable military applications. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Scotty barters for materials by offering up the formula for “transparent aluminum.”  The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is making that concept a reality.
The lab is working to improve transparent bulletproof armor for vehicles and face shields, as well as lighter weight bulletproof windows, with the development of a new, moldable material. The material, spinel, which is more durable than glass, could significantly improve military defenses as it is produced for various uses.
“Spinel is actually a mineral; it’s magnesium aluminate,” said Dr. Jas Sanghera, the researcher leading the project. “The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, and harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments—so it can withstand sand and rain erosion. For weight-sensitive platforms-UAVs, head-mounted face shields—it’s a game-changing technology.”
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