We are constantly striving to improve the materials in order to build resilient structures. Engineers at the University of Wisconsin did it. They managed to make a nanomaterial stronger than steel and kevlar. It surpasses them in high-speed projectile impact protection.
With nanostructured polymers, you can develop lightweight, high-performance reinforcements. For example, a sign on military vehicles to provide better protection against bullets. Or in space vehicles to mitigate the effects of meteorite remains. All of this, according to the university.
Scatter the effects
Ramathasan Thevamaran is a professor of technical physics at UW-Madison. Together with Jizhe Cai, they made ultra-thin films from a common polymer: semi-crystalline poly. They showed that the material was superior in deriving energy from microprojectile impacts over a wide speed range. They describe their research in an article published in the journal Nano Letters.
"We have reduced the polymer to this nanometric length scale. The internal microstructure has changed unexpectedly compared to its larger scale," says Thevamaran. "The energy absorption mechanisms in the material became very clear."
An experimental technique called microbalistic impact test has been used. They fired projectile particles that were almost a tenth the width of a human hair. It was up to 1,200 meters per second, several times as fast as a bullet. So they calculated the absorption of the impact and the deformation of the material.
Elastic and resistant
"The material is best suited because of its elasticity at room temperature," says Thevamaran. The rubbery nature of this material would make it difficult to use for applications like bulletproof vests. The shot put would protrude into the material. They can cause blunt trauma injuries to the user.
This material would be suitable for the development of the so-called "environmental armor". Armor protects the target, but does not adhere directly to it.
For example, environmental armor that is not far from a spaceship. That would consume almost all of the energy before a meteor fragment hits the spaceship. A nanomaterial that is stronger than steel and Kevlar would minimize damage. "
According to Thevamaran, the next steps in this study include further expanding the material and size of the projectiles.