Dr. Rhys Pullin (left), Head of Mechanical & Medical Engineering at Cardiff University discusses the A-Ultra body armor damage detection system with research associate, Dr. Ryan Marks.

Cardiff University’s School of Engineering joined forces with California-headquartered Microsemi to develop A-Ultra – a lightweight handheld system that uses ultrasound to spot damage to personal protective equipment.

Around five million armor units used by the UK’s armed forces are shipped periodically around the globe for X-ray inspection, representing a significant cost. The A-Ultra system allows the robustness of protective armor to be monitored locally, delivering both enhanced safety for the UK’s armed forces and savings for the Ministry of Defence.

The technology uses a transducer to send ultrasonic waves across the armor surface, which are then received by another transducer. If the surface of the protective equipment is damaged, the system can give a ‘fail’ or ‘pass’ reading under military field conditions – producing results comparable to existing lab-based testing methods.

The benefits of A-Ultra are expected to be fully realized when the MoD delivers a report on the project to all companies bidding to develop the VIRTUS body armor system.