Novel Lightweight Armor Material May Defend Against Bullets

Apr, 2022 - By WMR

Novel Lightweight Armor Material May Defend Against Bullets

With the use of carbon nanotubes, researchers created a new material that could be one day used in lightweight armor, outperforming Kevlar fabric and steel plates

Developing bulletproof materials comes down to one limitation, which is weight. Now a group of researchers at University of Wisconsin, Madison developed a novel nanofiber material that can outperform steel plates, and Kevlar fabric against high-speed projectile impacts. According to the research published in the journal ACS Nano in December 2021, the new lightweight armor material is termed as ‘nanofiber mat’ and consists a unique chemistry that allows it to outperform Kevlar and steel.

The new nanofiber mat is developed using small cylinders of carbon having thickness of a single atom. These cylinders are called as carbon nanotubes and are considered as potential next-generation materials for various types of applications including treating vision loss, transistor research, and even bomb detection devices. In this research, the team used multi walled versions of carbon nanotubes and added them with Kevlar nanofibers to build on a previous research that demonstrated the efficiency of these materials to absorb impacts. The researchers studied the chemistry and found that synthesizing Kevlar nanofibers incorporated in a small amount into the mats of carbon nanotubes in a right ratio, produces hydrogen bonds in the fibers.

As per the results, these bonds were significantly strong. Furthermore, the team tested the new material with the use of a microprojectile impact testing system, where microbullets are launched into the sample material at different velocities using lasers. With these experiments, the researchers demonstrated that the new material can be protected against high-speed impacts better than steel plates and Kevlar fabric. These findings offer the basis for ultralight and high-performance armor materials. According to the team, the new material can be used in spacecraft as it can absorb high-speed space debris impacts.

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