On a recent edition of Dragons’ Den, Jason Roberts, founder and CEO of a company called Tech21, managed to convince Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis to part with £150,000 (in return for a 40% stake in his business) for what is effectively a range of laptop bags, MP3 player and mobile phone cases.
Doesn’t sound that exciting, does it? But there is something rather special that lies at the heart of his apparently mundane products - a fabric called called d3o. This is an impact-absorbing material, that’s becoming increasingly popular in the world of protective clothing - it’s been used by the military, the US downhill ski team, and motorcycle clothing manufacturers to provide impact protection in the event of a crash.
What’s clever about it is that it’s soft and flexible in its natural state but goes hard on impact, as Mr Roberts ably demonstrated on a recent visit to PC Pro. He extracted a large lump of what looked like orange goo from his bag - the goo, he told us, was the raw material behind d3o.
Then he placed it in on the table and proceeded to hit it with his fist with the sort of impact that would have been enough break his knuckles with nothing in the way; but he didn’t even wince. We tried it too, and it didn’t hurt a bit. He hit it with a mallet and it hardly changed shape. Then he rolled it into a sphere and bounced it on the desk like a rubber ball.
It’s truly fascinating stuff, and it drew universal interest when I touted it around the office. The applications for it seem endless, and others clearly agree. Just check out the list of products detailed on the d3o website and you’ll see why.
We’re not so convinced how useful the iPod nano “iBand” made of this stuff will be (available from the Apple online store for £19.95), but I’ll be first in line for a protective laptop or camera bag.
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