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7 March, 2006 - 10:38 By Staff Reporter

Apres ski, Herts technology all set for a World Cup kick-off

A unique fabric developed at the University of Hertfordshire that hardens only on impact could make an appearance at the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany this summer after helping two skiers win gold medals at the Turin Winter Olympics.A unique fabric developed at the University of Hertfordshire that hardens only on impact could make an appearance at the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany this summer after helping two skiers win gold medals at the Turin Winter Olympics.

US competitors Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety both wore suits that carried d3o technology when they raced down the slopes of Sestriere to gold. The material was added to the baselayer tops and the giant slalom race suits to provide extra protection needed against 60 mph-plus collisions with race gates.

Now potential World Cup goalkeepers Jerzy Dudek of Liverpool and Poland and Robert Green of Norwich City and England are trialling d3o gloves for use at the tournament. A new shin pad has also been developed.

In the glove, the mesh provides a soft and flexible punching zone, which stiffens as the wearer punches the ball, giving both solid protection as well as a solid platform for the punch, returning to its flexible state as soon as the impact is over.

d3o’s technology, the d3o Mesh, is a perforated textured sheet which has been specifically designed for comfort and breathability in applications requiring good flexure and medium levels of impact protection.

These molecules are free flowing when movement is normal, providing a soft and flexible material. However, when impact occurs, the molecules lock together making the material stiffen, absorbing impact energy.

The moment the impact is over, the molecules return to their original free flowing state, with the whole process lasting just 10 milliseconds.

The collaboration between d3o and sports apparel manufacturer, Sells, has produced the Contour d3o Goalkeeper Glove and the d3o Pro Pad shinpad. Extensive tests carried out by Sells have shown that its Propad with d3o reduces transmitted force by 70 per cent compared to similar applications without that material.

Consumer ready versions of the gloves are expected to be available on the high street at some point this month and would follow d3o’s first consumer product, the Icon skateboard shoe, that was released last year.

The next product after the Sells pads and gloves will come from the d3o lab and Spyder collaboration that produced the first ski race suit containing d3o technology and led to the version used at the last Winter Olympics and is expected in September this year. Other products in skiwear will be available from Schoeffel and Kjus.

d3o brand manager, Ruth Gough, said: “Customers names are unfortunately confidential but watch this space for new products. We will be at the Orange Brits in Laax, Switzerland recruiting development team members in freestyle snowboarding and skiing in March.”

d3o believes that because of the unique properties of the material, the potential of d3o in all sorts of markets is huge and the company draws a parallel to Gore-Tex, which revolutionised the sports outerwear market and continued to be used in countless other industries.

Existing development partners for d3o come from the automotive industries, the medical market – e.g. prosthetics – the military, the building trade, vibration isolation for high end stereo systems and footwear.

In ballistics, Richard Palmer, d3o chief executive and co-founder, met with a German firm in August last year. Though d3o material does not offer enough resistance to halt a bullet, the material is deemed suitable as a covering material for armour-plated bullet-proof vests.

Gough, said: “If it were to be used in a ballistic application then it would be as an anti-trauma device, not as a bullet stopping one, but this is something that is very much future based and there are problems with using d3o in this application that have not yet been addressed.”

d3o was established in 1999 as an innovation consultancy on technology from the University of Herts Innovation Centre. It has a materials lab at the University of Hertfordshire where research on future applications of the material continues.

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