Oxford University researchers have developed an ultra-lightweight material for body armour that is so strong bullets will bounce off it.
The new design will mean that bullet-proof vests can be made that are thinner, lighter, more flexible, and so more comfortable for the wearer than any previous designs.
Soft body armour, worn beneath normal clothes, usually consists of a number of layers of strong fibre such as an aramid material. The objective is to stop or reduce the effects of 'blunt trauma' on the wearer after being struck by for example a bullet. The bullet's impact forces are spread over the surface, and the energy is absorbed by the armour.
The Oxford armour, which was invented in the Materials Science Department by Ki Buem Kim in collaboration with Sung Pak, incorporates a layer of material with a very high level of elastic stored energy. This causes the projectile to bounce off or be deflected by the armour. Other layers in the armour are of conventional material and provide the further benefits of energy absorption and energy dissipation.
Existing body armour can result in anyone hit by a bullet being knocked over by the impact. Each suit can also, depending on the level of metal used, weigh up to 4lb. The lightweight armour could bring improvements not only to police officers but also to soldiers, whose body armour has had to become heavier and more difficult to take into combat as firearms have improved.
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