There could soon be a day when military vehicles or civilian infrastructure is protected by a force field. Boeing recently earned a patent for a “method and system for shock wave attenuation via electromagnetic arc.” A force field.

In the patent filing, Boeing provides some background on the type of threats this force field would protect against.

Explosive devices are being used increasingly in asymmetric warfare to cause damage and destruction to equipment and loss of life. The majority of the damage caused by explosive devices results from shrapnel and shockwaves. Shrapnel is material, such as metal fragments, that is propelled rapidly away from the blast zone and may damage stationary structures, vehicles, or other targets. Damage from shrapnel may be prevented by, for example, physical barriers. Shockwaves are traveling discontinuities in pressure, temperature, density, and other physical qualities through a medium, such as the ambient atmosphere. Shockwave damage is more difficult to prevent because shockwaves can traverse an intermediate medium, including physical barriers.

While shrapnel is a bit easier to protect against, shock waves aren’t.

Boeing’s idea of a force field comes with two elements. A sensor to detect explosions strong enough to produce a shockwave. And, an arc generator that creates the force field to reduce the shock wave’s effects. The patent illustration below shows how it works.

Boeing patent

The patent’s abstract goes into further detail about the second medium used to dissipate the shock wave.

The arc generator may create the second medium by creating an electric arc that travels along an electrically conductive path utilizing at least one of high intensity laser pulses, pellets forming a conductive ion trail, sacrificial conductors, projectiles trailing electrical wires, and magnetic induction.

The patent highlights how it can be used with vehicles. But, it’s not hard to imagine this being used for various military or civilian buildings. It could be useful against combatting the devastating shock waves from car bombs.

The idea of force fields on the battlefield isn’t a new one. But, Boeing is focused on dissipating the shock wave with their patent. Shrapnel is still a problem, but that’s what armor is for.

Top image is a Trophy System. Check out a video of it in action here.