US Navy Develops Military Slime As A New Weapon


The US Navy is working to develop a weaponized, synthetic slime which can stop enemy vessels on their journeys. The idea of developing slime is inspired by the real-life hagfish. The hagfish protects itself by filling the attacker’s mouth and gills with goo. When slime comes in contact with sea water, it swells up to 10,000 times of its initial volume. Ryan Kincer, Material Engineer, and co-creator said, “Researchers have called the hagfish to slime one of the unique biomaterials known. From a tactical standpoint, it would be interesting to have a material that can change the properties of the water at dilute concentrations in a matter of seconds.”

Hagfish slime has two protein-based parts: a thread and a mucin. The coiled thread behaves like a spring and unravels when it contacts water. It is a material with properties which are like spider silk or the human-made Kevlar. It is currently used as a reinforcing agent in protective gear and rubber products. When the hagfish releases the slime, the mucin binds to the water, this constrains the flow between the channels which are created by the thread dispersion. Kincer said, “The interaction between the thread, mucin, and seawater creates a three-dimensional, viscoelastic network. Over time, the thread begins to collapse on itself, causing the slime to slowly dissipate.”

Kincer and biochemist Josh Kogot are creating the human-made version of the slime which is designed to stop enemy boats by clogging up their propellers. The Navy stops the boats by a plastic rope with a pneumatic launcher which is designed to tangle in the boat’s propeller and can be risky and inefficient both. Kagot said, “the synthetic hagfish slime may be used for ballistics protection, firefighting, anti-fouling, diver protection, or anti-shark spray. The possibilities are endless.”

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