In the wake of September 11, we’ve all become more aware of how ordinary technology can be used in terrifying ways. Who would have thought that a commercial jetliner would some day be used as a missile? Since the terrorist attack, airlines have scrambled to make their planes safer. One possible safety measure is something that’s been available since the late eighties: bombproof luggage containers.
To be able to withstand a bomb blast, a luggage container must be made of pretty strong stuff. The magic ingredient in the best-known bombproof container is called Glare, which is short for “reinforced glass.” Glare is a compound material made of several layers of aluminum, fiberglass, and adhesive bonding.
When a bomb explodes inside a luggage container built with Glare, the material absorbs the blast and redistributes its impact around the entire surface area of the container. This allows the container to deform without collapsing, effectively limiting the damage to the container’s interior.
After withstanding the initial blast, Glare-made containers effectively keep the subsequent fire from spreading to other parts of the plane. The intense heat melts the inner layer of aluminum, but it also carbonizes the adhesive layer, which secures the fiberglass layer in place. Since the fiberglass layers can withstand fires of up to twenty-seven-hundred degrees Fahrenheit, they do a good job of containing the fire and keeping the container intact.
Since Glare-built luggage containers are a hundred-fifty pounds heavier than regular aluminum containers, until recently most airlines went with regular aluminum. But the terrorist attacks may change that.