The researchers of MIT and Caltech they created a nano-engineered material that could be stronger than Kevlar and steel. Made of interconnected carbon "tetrakaidecahedra", the material absorbed the impact of microscopic projectiles in spectacular fashion.
The study, led by Carlos Portela of MIT, aimed to find out whether nano-architectural, (i.e., designed and manufactured at the nanoscale) materials could be a viable path to ultra-strong blast shields, body armor, and other protective surfaces.
The idea of materials based on tetrakaidecahedra is not new. These complex polyhedron figures (which include 1.5 billion possible variations) were proposed by Lord Kelvin in the XNUMXth century as the ideal form for filling spaces.
Nanomaterials outclass kevlar
By a principle similar to that exposed by Lord Kelvin, the density that tetrakaidecahedra can assume even in small spaces can maximize the absorption of impacts. Even those of projectiles (or space micro debris). To prove this, the researchers assembled blocks of materials using nanolithography techniques. Then they "fired at" nano bullets at speeds faster than the speed of sound.
The dense structures of nanomaterials they absorbed every impact very well (better than kevlar, as mentioned). They deformed, but they didn't break.
This material can absorb a lot of energy due to its nano-scale shock compaction mechanism. The same amount of mass of our material would be much more efficient in stopping a bullet than the same amount of mass of Kevlar.Carlos Portela
A solution found by looking at the stars
Interestingly, the researchers best modeled the impact and damage using methods generally known to describe meteors hitting a planet's surface.
This is just an initial lab result - we won't see kevlar replaced in vests anytime soon bulletproof. However, the experiment shows the gigantic potential of this approach: if a sustainable way is found to produce this tetrakaidecahedron material on a large scale, it will make the fortune of many industries (and many survivors).