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Let's imagine that in the future we have a way of creating room temperature superconductors that can be used to have electric magnets that can create quantum locks.

So the design is a shield made out of two or more parts. There is the metal shield the person holds. The other half of the shield is a plate, or plates that hover a few centimeters in front of the plate attached to the user using magnetic levitation and are locked in place.

The idea is to use the magnet to create a huge cushion. Any impact on it would be dissipated across the entire magnet and would minimize harm to the user. Hopefully a smaller shield could be used to block small to medium caliber rounds, and a large shield on power armor could block 50 cal or a car.

We can also say that the front of the shield is made of some super material that can take the impact, but I also hope that the softness of the floating shield would help protect it as well.

The question is, would this help disperse the impact, or would a human inside the suit still be turned into paste by heavy gunfire or a large impact?

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  • $\begingroup$ @EveninginGethsemane I mostly imagined them on power armor, or otherwise power assisted users kind of what we see in demos right now where people can lift weights. So small ones maybe 40 pounds, and large ones on full power armor maybe u to 400. I do realize mass may be the #1 factor here. I wonder how much you need to disperse a 50 cal $\endgroup$
    – Andrey
    Apr 22 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ @EveninginGethsemane let's not worry about the round going through. Future material could deal with that. My only concern dissipating the energy $\endgroup$
    – Andrey
    Apr 22 at 20:42

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Essentially, you're using your magnet as a spring: when it's hit, it deforms momentarily under the impact before returning to its shape. A force goes in one side, and it must come out the other side, but the spring action helps spread it out over time. (The kinetic energy of a bullet isn't that much in absolute terms; it's dangerous to you because it's applied all at once.) This is fine and sensible and a good approach.

The question, though, is whether magnets give you a particularly good return of "springiness" on your investment. Electromagnets that can apply a lot of force to a human-sized shield are heavy and draw a lot of power, and come with concerns like heat dissipation that must be addressed. In contrast, something like an aerogel foam is quite springy, requires neither power nor cooling, and is typically very lightweight. Electromagnets that lose power are useless (or worse, if your outer plates won't stick to your armor without them) but foam is still foam.

The basic principle is sound, and if you happened to have the magnets on hand for some other reason, using them to hold up a shield will absorb some of the force of the blow. But for purpose-built armor, I doubt that they are more effective than inert materials.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you'd also quickly see the arrival of new "armor-collapsing" munitions that interfere with the performance of superconductors, because the superconducting state has various limits (generally involving temperatures and magnetic field strengths) above which they cease to be superconducting. Having your superconducting shield quench and release all its stored energy might well be fatal all by itself, even without a bullet or blast to finish you off. Aerogels are rather more benign, if not suited to repeat impacts. $\endgroup$ Apr 23 at 20:44

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