Bulletproof Jackets Made Of GrapheneJanuary 16, 2019
The man has desired protective and comfortable body armor since centuries. Starting with rudimentary armor made from bones and leather, the use of the stronger but heavier bronze, iron and steel has helped advance the armor technology today. However, the current personnel ballistic armor, such as the bulletproof vests and bulletproof jackets, of today offer significant protection but are noticeably bulkier.
Experienced personnel from various law enforcement agencies and armed forces that require using ballistic armor in real-life situations voice a desire to have a body armor which is not only more reliable but also lighter and more convenient for swift movements in the field.
Graphene – The Wonder Material
Graphene has been called the wonder material ever since it discovered in 2003 and scientists began to know the remarkable properties stored within it.
Although graphite had been known to us for quite some time now, when University of Manchester scientists in 2003 synthesized graphene, it revolutionized material technology forever. The discovery of graphene has often compared with the invention of steel which ushered in the Industrial Revolution all across the globe.
Graphene derived from graphite layers through rigorous yet careful synthesizing processes in specialized laboratories. A graphene is a form of carbon which is composed of only a single layer of carbon atoms which attached in a way which forms a hexagonal lattice.
Each carbon atom in graphene shares a strong sp2 hybridized bond with three other carbon atoms closest to itself. This leaves an individual electron free to move across the single-layered sheet of graphene. This intricate structure allows graphene to possess remarkable electronic, thermal, optical and mechanical properties, which are unmatched by any other material is known to man.
Some of the most astonishing properties of graphene result in making graphene:
- Most durable material known to man with a tensile strength which is an astonishing 200 times of that of conventional industrial-grade steel that we use today.
- An ideal conductor of electricity as the free electron can transport smoothly over the single-layered lattice structure.
- An excellent conductor of heat energy as the electrical properties and its unique atomic structure allows free movement of electrons throughout its surface area.
- Able to effectively dissipate kinetic energy 10 times better than industrial steel.
- Almost intangible and completely transparent, thanks to the single-layered carbon atom structure.
Revolutionizing Bulletproof Jackets with Graphene
Having reliable, lightweight and convenient personal body armor is one of the most significant demands in the armed forces and various government and law enforcement agencies all across the world. Recent research into the impact-study of graphene can prove to be the answer to the dilemma of balancing protection level and the weight of body armor, which is plaguing the body armor industry today.
Ever since its discovery, intense research has been going on to study the electronic, thermal, optical and other properties of graphene. It was only recently a duo of research scientists have carried out studies that prove graphene could prove twice as severe as diamond and used effectively in designing and developing extremely lightweight, flexible and convenient personal body armor, such as bulletproof jackets.
The researchers, material scientist Edwin Thomas from Rice University and assistant professor, Jae-Hwang Lee of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, carried out intensive testing on graphene to study the effects of high-velocity ballistics, such as bullets.
Results of Research for Using Graphene in Bulletproof Jackets
The two scientists developed an impact test which involves using small sheets of graphene and subjecting the graphene sheets to impact through a process called LIPIT (Laser-Induced Projectile Impact Test).
As only the graphene sheet is unable to withstand the impact of traditional ballistics directly without tearing apart, the scientists used an innovative technique which allows shooting ‘ micro-bullets ’ at the graphene sheets using laser energy.
This pioneering testing method works by pushing small spheres away from the opposing end of an absorbing gold sheet at incredible speeds. This laser-based process can launch micro-projectiles at the graphene sheets with speed reaching an immense 3 km/sec, or 1.9 miles/sec, which is remarkably faster than the bullet’s velocity fired from an AK-47 assault rifle.
For this impact study, the research team used numerous graphene sheets of varying thickness, ranging between 10 nanometers to 100 nanometers, many times thinner than conventional paper.
By using high-speed photography technology, the team was able to launch projectiles at incredible speeds and discovered that two layers (sheets) of graphene combined provide effective impact-resistance. The study showed that graphene was able to distribute the stress from the projectile’s impact at an incredible 7,217 feet/sec (2,200 meters/sec), which is over six times faster than the speed of sound.
What the study proved was that graphene is incredibly stiff and strong and yet also extremely flexible, making it ideal for use in bulletproof jackets in the near future.