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Made from the same titanium alloy as flexible spectacles, and inspired in part by the hard shells and flexible legs of ironclad beetles, BAE Systems at Telford, Shropshire, is working on vehicle suspension components that could bend and ‘bounce back’ into shape after an explosive impact. 

The use of so-called ‘memory metal’ would make it possible to build suspensions without springs, thus strengthening and simplifying the entire system. If key operational parts such as suspension units can be protected from destruction or sever damage by being flexible, a great deal of the damage done to vehicles by explosive impact can be avoided, BAE Systems engineers believe.

A small-scale prototype has already been tested in five increasingly powerful explosive tests as a response to the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory’s Highly Robust Ground Platform competition, which seeks an innovative unmanned vehicle. Investigation is now continuing into adapting memory metal suspension systems for full sized combat vehicles – which could become operational within the next decade, the company believes. 

Marcus Potter, Head of Mobility at BAE Systems Land (UK), said: “This unique use of memory metals could prove a real game-changer for combat vehicles taking part in operations. Being able to adapt to changing situations is hugely important to maintaining effectiveness, and this application of bendable titanium could give armed forces the required flexibility – and survivability – to complete tasks in challenging areas.”

Ironclad beetles (of the subfamily Zopherinae) inspired BAE Systems engineers to experiment with bendable suspension systems to protect future armoured vehicles from explosive impact (Photo: BAE Systems)

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