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Advanced materials create powerful, lightweight shield for law enforcement and school safety

Combining the world’s strongest material, graphene, and its lightest, aerogel

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GC Graphene Composites Patrol Shield schools 1-1.png

While SWAT and special-operations operators will typically have their own ballistic shields, the GC Patrol Shield is also suitable for use by regular patrol officers, for whom it will offer a high level of protection without taking up much space in the car or being heavy and cumbersome to tote around.


In Parkland, Florida, the school door was unlocked. In Uvalde, Texas, a door that was supposed to automatically lock didn’t. At the Covenant School in Nashville, the killer just shot their way in.

Efforts to improve school security often start with hardening perimeters – erecting fences and locking gates and doors, among other measures. But if a shooter can get past those defenses – and as the above examples show, they still can and do – there’s often not much else to inhibit them until they meet a cop, school resource officer or armed teacher. It’s an interval where they’re free to roam and kill, and students and faculty can only block doors, hide and hope for an opportunity to escape.

Reducing the death count of school shooters requires mitigating this gap.

“We look at school security from a ring perspective, starting from the outside moving in,” said Darren Delaney, a longtime law enforcement officer in Rhode Island who has also served as a safety coordinator for local schools. “The doors are locked and secured, and you generally have to be buzzed in. But once you get inside, there really aren’t a lot of other protective measures. A lot of schools have SROs now, but a lot of municipalities can’t afford that. So I think it’s important to have more of a protective ring within the school.”

The GC Patrol Shield, from advanced materials developer GC (Graphene Composites), provides a powerful, lightweight and affordable way for schools to achieve some of that protection. And it’s endorsed and used by law enforcement.


The most unique feature of the GC Patrol Shield is its composition: GC Shields have a patented composite of materials that are literally the strongest and lightest in the world.

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Graphene is the strongest material ever measured. Aerogels are the world’s lightest materials. They combine for shields that are incredibly light but extremely strong.


Graphene is a honeycomb layer of carbon just one atom thick that is 200 times stronger than steel. It is the strongest material ever measured. Columbia professor of mechanical engineering James Hone said of the material, “It would take an elephant balanced on a pencil to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap.”

Aerogels are the world’s lightest materials; they are made of over 85% air. The NASA-patented aerogel the GC Shield uses is also one the best insulators.

They combine for shields that are incredibly light but extremely strong.

How strong? The GC Patrol Shield exceeds the National Institute of Justice’s 0108.01 standard for ballistic-resistant protective materials. At close range it can stop handgun and rifle rounds, including 9mm full metal jacket, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 5.56x45mm M193 (AR-15), 7.62x51mm M80 and 7.62x39mm AK-47 rounds, including edge shots.

How light? The shield weighs under 20 pounds, less than half the weight of traditional shields, despite being full size (35 by 20 inches).

“It’s light and simple, and you don’t have to be a SWAT guy to use it,” said Delaney, vice president of GC’s Protective Division.

When a bullet strikes the shield, its kinetic energy is absorbed and channeled back towards itself, a phenomenon called ‘hypersonic shear thickening’ – the harder you hit it, the harder it gets.

“Much of the energy disperses away from rather than toward the user,” explained Delaney. “With Kevlar-based products, all the kinetic energy and shock goes into the person holding the shield.” GC Patrol Shield’s innovative design greatly reduces backface deformation and impact on the user.

The GC Patrol Shield hit the market in 2022. “We took it down to the test center and fired some rounds into it, and that’s where it all began,” recalled GC cofounder and Marketing Director Carol Jarvest. “We discovered its properties were incredible.”

The company is now incorporating the material into additional uses like vehicle armor and head protection, as well as toward further law enforcement applications.


Several other attributes make the shield suitable for equipping schools and other public venues that pose vulnerable targets. For one, it’s easy to carry and maneuver. The GC Patrol Shield comes with a breakaway sling system that leverages the whole upper body, rather than just the arm, to support its weight. Its ambidextrous handle system helps prevent tension and fatigue to the shoulders, wrists and elbows.

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The GC Patrol Shield is already being used by a number of departments.


For police users, the edge protection facilitates reloading and negates the need for a viewport that would add weight and may sustain damage. In testing, the shield withstood five consecutive rifle rounds into the shield’s edge, and “It still stopped the fifth round of firing,” Delaney said. “We’ve done several different ballistic tests on it, but this was really impressive.”

The rectangular shape of the GC Patrol Shield allows multiple shields to be lined up and attached to create a shield wall or barricade, useful in evacuation or tactical advancing situations. They can also be easily attached to doors via Velcro or integrated D-rings to secure rooms where people are sheltering.

When not in use, the shields are flat and easy to store. In school scenarios, they can even be decorated with logos and hung on walls to appear nonthreatening while remaining accessible in common areas.

“One of the advantages to our shield is that it’s multipurpose,” said Delaney. “You can use it to evacuate or shield the kids retreating into a lockdown area, then you can easily attach that shield to the door so a shooter can’t shoot through. That will give you more time for law enforcement to respond. The average response time to active shooters is anywhere from 3–7 minutes, depending on the jurisdiction, so the shield is a tangible, effective piece of portable protection equipment that can be easily utilized by an SRO or staff while that happens.”

Those same benefits, it’s worth noting, translate easily to other soft targets – hospitals, malls, office buildings, etc. In any such situation, victims are likely to be untrained civilians under extreme duress, and their fine motor skills will be reduced. Protective solutions thus need to be straightforward and simple to deploy.

“As soon as somebody picks up our shield, it already provides maximum coverage in the right places,” noted Charlotta Gustavsson, business associate with GC. “It’s easy to use and feels comfortable to hold, so it’s definitely a solution that works well for somebody with absolutely no experience with a shield. I think that’s one of our key selling points.”


While SWAT and special-operations operators will typically have their own ballistic shields, the GC Patrol Shield is also suitable for use by regular patrol officers, for whom it will offer a high level of protection without taking up much space in the car or being heavy and cumbersome to tote around. It’s already being used by a number of departments, and successfully protected officers in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, during a prolonged standoff last May.

It’s also protecting the occupants of a growing number of schools.

“It really just gives students and teachers a fighting chance,” said Delaney. “It’s easy to implement into the active-shooter training they do all the time. We teach ‘run, hide or fight’ now, and it addresses all three – evacuation, sheltering, and then if a gun jams or a shooter stops to reload, the shield is so light, you can take the opportunity and strike them with it. The shield can also be used to confine the shooter on the ground.

“Time is of the essence in these situations, and the more we can delay shooters, the lower the casualty rate is going to be.”

For more information, visit GC.

Read next:
Delve into the innovative design and practical application of the GC Patrol Shield, a tool that addresses the unique challenges faced by patrol officers with its balance of simplicity, durability and comprehensive protection
How much safer and more confident would you feel knowing you have lightweight, ballistic protection between you and the threat?

John Erich is a Branded Content Project Lead for Lexipol. He is a career writer and editor with more than two decades of experience covering public safety and emergency response.