We decided this week to hit the road and witness some on-the-ground testing with a chemical called Polyurea.

Garry Froese, owner of the company ArmorThane invited us to a lift in a backlot of their US Central office of West Springfield, Missouri, to see an elastomer that can be a protective coating

The day began with a tale of two roofs. These roofing systems were both made up of a basic metal sheet, as you would see in an airplane hangar.

They chose this style because the testing was being completed for a governmental, military test of a nondisclosed country. The second version of the roofing system, however, was also coated with a polyurea protective layer. Fifty feet up, they dropped an extremely heavy mockup 50-kilo bomb.

Each drop, we were given a ready? One, two, three. Bombs away!

Well, no surprise, the bomb made mincemeat of the non-coated roof and went straight to the ground.

After this test, it was time to see what ArmorThane’s protective coating could do.

Upon inspecting the coated roof, I’d say it feels a little bit like plastic. It has characteristics of plastic. However, it is an elastomer which means it can be stretched, but it will return to its original shape. 

Okay, now let’s see if this has any better effect

Ready? One, two, three. Bombs away!

The ArmorThane coated roof flexes to absorb the impact then springs back into shape. 

No way, it worked! 

Okay, i get it. The stuff is tough, but what’s going on inside that coating? How could a thin layer of rubber keep a bomb from penetrating?

There’s more than one flavor of ArmorThane, but the coating you see results from a reaction between two ingredients. The first is a highly reactive molecule at each end of its carbon backbone. A nitrogen carbon and oxygen group called an isocyanate acts like a hook to lock onto the second chemical ingredient. It’s a polyamide, a member of a chemical group called resins.




ArmorThane heats the two ingredients and feeds them under pressure into a sprayer which mixes them just as they exit. Immediately the first ingredient hooks onto part of the resin, and all those linkages create long and tangled polymer chains similar to rubber so that they’re flexible but also much tougher. The resulting elastomer is called a polyurea, a cousin to the more familiar polyurethanes. 

So that’s a general idea. However, they tweak the chemistry for different applications. The main ingredients for ArmorThane and synthetic rubber come from fossil fuels like refined crude oil. When we pump oil from the ground, it’s a rich soup of molecules built around that tinker toy wonder element carbon. They come in chains, rings, trees, and other shapes. Refining separates those molecules by kind and, in some cases, breaks up bigger ones turning them into smaller, more useful molecules like gasoline refining also supplies the industry with the basic building blocks for another group of synthetic polymers that came to dominate our way of life in the 20th century. 

If you would like to learn more about ArmorThane and its line of protective coating material, click here.