Paper-thin bulletproof super material developed

Researchers have designed a new paper-thin bullet-proof super material which can self-assemble into alternating glassy and rubbery layers.

The nanomaterial could translate into safety beyond vests. These advancements could accelerate progress on protective coatings for satellites and even jet engine turbine blades, researchers said.

A team of mechanical engineering and materials scientists from Rice University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created special materials that were able to stop bullets in the lab.

The type of material, called a structured polymer composite, can actually self-assemble into alternating glassy and rubbery layers, the ‘Discovery News’ reported.

While performing ballistic tests on the material at MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the 20-nanometer-thick layers were able to stop a 9-millimetre bullet and seal the entryway behind it, according to a Rice University.

However, one of the challenges to making thinner and lighter protective gear is being able to test new, promising materials effectively in the lab.

Researchers need to know precisely why those nanolayers are so good at dissipating energy, but analysing the polymer can take days. The MIT-Rice team also came up with an innovative testing method, where they shot tiny glass beads at the material. Although the beads were only a millionth of a meter in size, they simulated bullet impacts.

Under a scanning electron microscope the material’s layers look like corduroy so the projectile impact can be seen clearly. “This would be a great ballistic windshield material,” Rice School of Engineering dean, Ned Thomas said.

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