Cabe, that's a good point about the energy dump. I think that's an aspect more of how body armor is designed, and not merely the material it's made of (although the one you mention incorporates ceramics, which this does not, so this one wouldn't shatter like that). The earlier blog we give a link to talked more about how this (at the time proposed) material might be adapted for body armor. Let us know what you think.
The prospect of using the material for body armor would undoubtedly lighten the load for those who would have to wear it, however taking an impact from head-on is one thing, absorbing the energy dumped from a bullet impact is quite another. A friend of mine just back from Afghanistan was telling me that a big percentage of bullet impacts on body armor come at an angle, which tends to fragment the ceramic composite plates they use. I wonder if this new material would prevent that.
Jim, funny you should mention that. Stay tuned for a post on using a network of microchannels to carry materials that heal composites when they break. The idea you mentioned has been tried various times in R&D. but controlling the materials, getting the right chemistries & the right mix, etc has been tough. This one seems to solve those problems.
This also reminds me of a related topic.About 10 years ago, I was working for a Materials Ph.D. who was investigating regenerative materials. Her theory was that if a plastic housing or casing cracked, the crack would be able to self-heal from material seeping from the inside out to fill the crack; much like a scab on a wound heals; from the inside out. Her theory was based loosely on the mucus secretions of mollusks (like a conch or nautilus) which grow spirally upon their own secretions.I don't think her vision ever came to fruition however; but a cool theory!
Jim, glad you liked the post. I always like to do followups -- when possible, useful and relevant -- on the R&D we write about. And I also thought the SEM photo was fascinating: it made me think of much larger structures in sedimentary rock I've seen in the southwestern US. I suspect your son pursuing a biology major at UCR might have to make an effort to meet up with these researchers, since they're engineers. But at least he now knows where to find them.
Ann – this is really fascinating to me, being a design engineer and always having been drawn to the ocean. The electron microscope image of the twisted lattice alone is something I could look at for hours!It really makes you ponder the intimate details of Creation that we haven't even begun to investigate. Then, for UCR researchers to be able to duplicate it, is a true feat!
Coincidentally, my son starts at UCR in the fall, pursuing a Ph.D in Biology. I wonder if he'll run into these guys-?
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