Washington: A team of mechanical engineering and materials scientists from Rice University and MIT has created special nanomaterials 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.
When performing ballistic tests on the material at MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, those 20-nanometer-thick layers were able to stop a 9-millimeter bullet and seal the entryway behind it, Discovery News quoted Rice University as writing in an article.
Testing new, promising materials effectively in the lab is one of the challenges to making thinner and lighter protective gear.
But the MIT-Rice team, which included Rice research scientist Jae-Hwang Lee and School of Engineering dean Ned Thomas, 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, according to MIT News.
Under a scanning electron microscope the material’s layers look like corduroy so the projectile impact can be seen clearly.
The nanomaterial, along with improved impact testing, could translate into safety beyond vests.
According to the researchers, these advancements could accelerate progress on protective coatings for satellites and even jet engine turbine blades.
The team recently published their findings in Nature Communications (abstract)