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Polarized hull plating was an early form of protective armor used by 22nd century Earth Starfleet vessels. This type of armor was a precursor to the energy shielding used by Federation ships in the 23rd century and operated by strengthing the molecular bond of the hull plates. Hull polarization was the most common form of shielding used by Earth Starfleet until after the Earth-Romulan War. (TNG - Department of Temporal Investigations novel: Forgotten History)