Boeing just patented the technology for a “method and system for shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc,” which is a fancy was of saying force field. While we’re still a long was from having the kind of protective bubble seen in Sci-Fi shows and movies such as Star Trek, this is certainly one of the first steps on the road towards achieving that technology.
The concept uses a range of sensors which detect an incoming shockwave from an explosion, while a processing unit tries to calculate the type of blast, the size and distance using its database of explosion signatures. It will then work out the best strategy to use to defend against the attack. The new system only protects against the explosion, rather than any ballistic objects, for which the vehicles used are likely already protected against with their standard armour.
When a blast from something like an IED is detected and analyzed, a laser, blast of electricity or microwave energy can be fired into either the surrounding air or water to create a wave of plasma which acts as a shield between the explosion and the vehicle. The heat and density of the plasma will help to deflect and absorb the incoming shockwave, thus protecting the vehicle. The system essentially fights fire with fire, trying to cancel out the incoming wave.
It’ll be interesting to see how this technology develops, but for now, it’s certainly freaking awesome and paves the way for a lot of very cool technology in the future.