Putting the “Science” in “Science Fiction” – Violet Incredible
Violet Incredible, one of the titular characters of Disney’s film The Incredibles, shares a number of powers with the Invisible Woman. She uses her powers throughout the film and, though her ability to become invisible is useful, the power she uses the most is the ability to create force fields.
These force fields, like those shown throughout science fiction, are structures made out of energy that can withstand enemy attack and impacts from objects in the environment. The force fields offer the ultimate in science-fiction protection, and can make the object they are guarding practically invulnerable until they are overloaded. From superheroes and superheroines to the spacecraft of Star Trek and Star Wars, force fields are one of the most common and effective defensive technologies in science fiction.
Since force fields are made of energy, they are also portrayed as being weightless and easily controlled in order to provide maximum protection without hindering the movement of whatever the shield is protecting. Force fields are usually shown as being equally effective against projectiles and energy attacks, such as those delivered by laser and plasmaweapons, which can easily overcome conventional armor. With all of these advantages, it is obvious why many researchers, inventors and scientists are working towards making force fields a reality.
Research into force fields is being undertaken by many groups of scientists, but so far the ability to generate a wall of defensive energy is beyond even our most advanced technology. Although they have not yet produced working force fields, these research projects have come up with technologies that work in a similar way and will provide considerable protection against the many dangers of the modern battlefield. One of these technologies, now being investigated by the British Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, is a system that uses supercapacitors and electrical charges to destroy incoming projectiles. In operation, this device would consist of a supercapacitor mounted inside an armored vehicle. This capacitor would be connected to the outer skin of the vehicle and to a sensor system would detect impacts from large projectiles like rockets, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), tank shells and bombs. When the sensor detects such an impact, it immediately triggers a
surge of electricity from the capacitor to the impact site. The momentary electrical field that this process generates is strong enough to repel the impact of anti-tank weapons, preventing them from doing any damage to the vehicle. After the charge is released, the capacitor quickly recharges itself and is once again ready for action. Small-arms fire, such as bullets from rifles and pistols, would not require the system to activate since armor can be made immune to such small-caliber weapons. In testing, a jeep equipped with this system was able to survive multiple RPG impacts and then drive away with only minor damage, an impressive feat since RPGs are designed to destroy tanks and armored personnel carriers. The main aim of this project is to increase the protection of armored vehicles while also reducing their weight, which is possible since a vehicle equipped with this system does not require the nearly two feet of heavy armor that covers all areas of modern battle tanks. This reduction in armor weight will mean that armored vehicles can be built that are faster, more maneuverable, and more fuel-efficient than modern versions.
As new weapon systems come about, it is necessary for armor technology to improve in order to protect soldiers from their enemies. Technologies like these do not have strictly military applications, however, and when the ability to create electromagnetic armor becomes easy to mass-produce, it may one day be integrated into civilian cars and trains in order to protect them from collisions and debris.