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In the search for a better material for bullet-proof vests, researchers are turning to graphene, which they say works twice as well as the high-tech fabrics currently utilized in body armor for police and soldiers.
Researchers conducted miniature ballistic tests in which they fired tiny spheres of silicon at graphene – sheets of single carbon atoms in a honeycomb lattice – and found the material can be stronger than steel for absorbing impacts.
Lasers were used to fire the tiny “microbullets” against graphene sheets between 10 and 100 layers thick, engineers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst reported in the journal Science.
The silicon spheres were fired at about at 3,000 meters per second, about a third of the speed of a typical rifle bullet.
According to Tech Times, examination with an electron microscope showed the graphene sheets absorbed the impacts by deforming into a cone shape and then cracking outward in multiple directions in a radial pattern.
That cracking, which can result in a wider impact hole, is a possible weakness of single-layer graphene, research leader Jae-Hwang Lee says, but even so graphene is twice as effective at absorbing impacts as Kevlar, the current material of choice for body armor, and 10 times more effective than steel.